I don’t believe in the notion of ‘jinxing’ things. I don’t for one second think that saying you believe Liverpool will win the title on Twitter will have any bearing what soever on the outcome of the Premier League. Yet I must confess that I couldn’t believe it when Liverpool’s match against Southampton ended 0-0 last weekend, having spent my match betting preview talking about how there would be goals from both sides in a high-scoring game.
Football is about fine margins, of course, and If the game had ended 3-1 to the Reds no one would have been overly shocked or describing it as a flattering scoreline. Charlie Austin had a decent header to score for the home side, with Nathaniel Clyne, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané either missing great opportunities or forcing a good save from the ‘keeper. I’m confident, then, that I’m going to get more right than I get wrong this season.
It looks as though Adam Lallana will still be missing for this game, forcing Jürgen Klopp to make some decisions about who will miss out for the visit of Sunderland. Photos posted by the official Liverpool Football Club Twitter account on Thursday seemed to show Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum both in training but no sign of the former Southampton man just yet. He might make the bench, but even that seems unlikely.
The other thing that the manager will have to think about is the fact that we’ve got an EFL Cup match against Leeds United on Tuesday. Will he consider making eleven changes, as he did for the previous round’s tie against Spurs? If so you can expect both Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi to start against the Yorkshire side, meaning that neither of them are likely to be in from kick-off against the Black Cats.
It will be really interesting to see how Klopp manages his squad over the festive period. Andrew Beasley, who I often quote in my pieces as he’s such a brilliant fountain of information, did an informative piece this week about the manager’s use of substitutes, with the German seeming to prefer an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach. For that reason I expect him to name an unchanged side for the first time in over games on Saturday. My team: Karius – Clyne – Matip – Lovren – Milner – Henderson – Can – Wijnaldum – Coutinho – Mané – Firmino.
There are two notable absences from David Moyes’ side as he prepares to face the Reds. Paddy McNair suffered a knee injury in their previous match against Hull and it’s been revealed that that is likely to rule him out for the rest of the season. Never nice when such a thing happens and I wish him a speedy recovery. Lee Cattermole is set to be out until April of next year too, having undergone hip surgery in the States earlier in the month.
Steven Pienaar is likely to return to the Black Cats’ starting line-up at Anfield, with the former Everton player hoping that he can cause trouble against his one-time rivals. Papy Djilobodji is suspended, so another former Liverpool rival will deputise for him in the form of John O’Shea. Other than that I expect Sunderland to be unchanged, with Jordan Pickford in goal probably the pick of the bunch when it comes to their stand-out players.
The 0-0 draw at St. Mary’s definitely put a slight dampener on proceedings for Liverpool, but we’re still in very good form as winter approaches. We’re now unbeaten in thirteen games in all competitions and we’ve won ten of those games. Draws against Manchester United, Tottenham and Southampton are nothing to be ashamed of and the fact that we’ve scored ten goals in our last three games even with the blank against Saints taken into account should have Sunderland very worried indeed.
The Black Cats have hit a little bit of form heading into the game, having won their last two matches. They were against Bournemouth and Hull, however, so the level of opposition has certainly been found wanting. They’ve lost eight, won two and drawn two of their twelve games so far this season, conceding four against Arsenal at the Stadium of Light at the tail end of October. It’s also worth noting that David Moyes has never managed a winnings side at Anfield…
For some this has all the hallmarks of a potential loss, with Sunderland perhaps being under-estimated in some quarters. For others, this looks like the sort of game that Jürgen Klopp has built his side to win comfortably. Which one of those turns out to be right remains to be seen, but here’s my take on the likely bets you should place:
The Liverpool manager was at pains to point out at his pre-match press conference that Sunderland are a good side who shouldn’t be under-estimated. He talked of Jermain Defoe and Victor Anichebe and said that complacency would be killer. The cliché tells us that there are no easy games in the Premier League, yet I genuinely believe that this Liverpool side is capable of sticking double figures past a team this season. It may not be Sunderland, but I’m confident that we’ll win and I think there’ll be goals in this game if the players are really on it.
We carved Southampton open at will last week and they have significantly better players than David Moyes has at his disposal. José Fonte and Virgil van Dijk are two of the best central defenders in the league, but a four or five goal return wouldn’t have flattered us. That’s why I’m going to be placing a bet on Over 2.5 Goals in Both Halves, available at around 10/1 as an accumulator. I’m also tempted to bet on a Liverpool Win With a -4 Handicap @ 6/1, such is my conviction that this will be a Liverpool whitewash.
So Who Gets The Goals?
It stands to reason that if there are going to be loads of goals then there will also need to be loads of goal scorers, but who do I think will get on the scoresheet? I’ve mentioned Gini Wijnaldum’s name a few times recently and I’m going to do so again now. The former Newcastle midfielder netted eleven times for the magpies last season, all of them coming at home. He got off the mark for us against Watford before the international break and I fancy him to score against his former derby rivals. Wijnaldum is around 4/1 To Score Anytime and that looks like a good bet to me.
To be honest, there isn’t much value in anytime goalscorer bets for any of the usual Liverpool suspects. The only way to lengthen the odds a little bit is to have a guess at who you think will open the scoring and even then you’re not exactly talking silly odds. I’m banking on Roberto Firmino having spent the week stewing on his bad miss against Southampton and determined to put things right. Firmino is 4/1 to be First Goal Scorer and that’s a decent enough bet to catch my attention. Slightly longer odds of 9/1 for James Milner to be FGS are available and might be worth going for given he’s on penalties.
It’s perfectly fair to think I’m wrong in my assumption that the Reds are going to go goal crazy and win comfortably this weekend. Perhaps you think the 18/1 odds available for Sunderland To Win are far too long and you want to have a piece of that action. If that’s the case then the fact that Jermain Defoe is as long as 7/2 To Score Anytime will likely interest you. Just as intriguing are the odds of 6/1 for Victor Anichebe to To Score Anytime. They’re both with having a punt on if you’re feeling a shock on the cards. I’m not, though, so I won’t be splashing the cash on either of them.
The Reds are winning big this weekend, I’m calling it. That’s why the 10/1 available as an accumulator for there to be Over 2.5 Goals Each Half looks very good to me. I’m also going to maintain faith in Gini Wijnaldum To Score Anytime at 4/1. Stick a tenner on each of them and thank me next week…