It was bittersweet at Anfield on Sunday from a betting point of view. On the one hand I said an early goal would be key to the Reds winning and recommended that you bet on a goal from 0-15 @ 7/4. Adam Lallana’s goal after just five minutes won that bet for you if you placed it, though Liverpool failed to capitalise on it and the win didn’t follow. I also thought Andy Carroll would score. Thankfully our ex donkey didn’t get his name on the scoresheet but that meant my other tip didn’t come off. Still, 50% is not a bad rate of return!
Next we’re off to Middlesbrough and The Riverside Stadium; somewhere that has been less than a happy hunting ground for Liverpool teams of the past. In fact, as a football club we’ve only won twice there in fourteen attempts. Realistically, though, that should only bother the fans rather than the players. After all the last time ‘Boro were in the Premier League Lucas Leiva was the only person in the entire squad who is still at Liverpool. What are the bets that you’ll want to consider making? I’ve had a think.
Whatever else is going on at Liverpool right now Jürgen Klopp has not been helped by the ever increasing number of absences from his squad. Ray the anonymous egg on Twitter might be keen to blame the manager’s training methods, but he didn’t train Philippe Coutinho to get kicked in the ankle. Nor could he have foreseen Emre Can knocking knees with Origi and getting injured accordingly. He missed the visit of West Ham at the weekend and won’t be ready in time for our trip up North, with Everton his likely return date.
Klopp’s training methods didn’t cause Daniel Sturridge’s injury either, with the striker prone to picking up a small knock that mysteriously lasts for weeks. It means that right now Klopp is unable to call on any of Coutinho, Sturridge or Danny Ings for his front three at a time when one or all of them would have been used. Add to that the sudden drop in form of Roberto Firmino and the seeming desire to of a our defence to complete collapse at every opportunity and you’ve got a team in what can generously be called ‘a bit of a funk’.
Some people are trying to make out that the manager has got a decision to make over the goalkeeper, though I don’t think that’s the case. Loris Karius has got off to a rough start at Anfield but he’s certainly no worse than Mignolet and I think he lets the team play in a way that is more like what Klopp wants. With that in mind my predicted team for the game against Middlesbrough is Karius – Clyne – Matip – Lovren – Milner – Henderson – Wijnaldum – Lallana – Mané – Firmino – Origi.
Aitor Karanka seems to have got one half of his job at The Riverside boxed off, making his side hard to beat. He’s struggled to get them scoring goals, though, and that means that this is the battle of the league’s highest scorers against its lowest. He’ll be boosted by the news that Alvaro Negredo has recovered from a hamstring injury and is likely to start the match. Gaston Ramirez is unlikely to be fit in time after a foot problem, however, and George Friend may be back in training but probably won’t be risked.
Other than that I’d be surprised to see much of a different team to the one that lost narrowly to Southampton at the weekend. Victor Valdés will be hoping to prove that class is permanent in the battle of the two goalkeepers. Unlike his opposite number, the most the former Barcelona man has conceded no more than three goals in one game so far this season. Liverpool old boy Stewart Downing is unlikely to start but don’t be surprised to see him come off the bench and cause us problems, as our old players are wont to do.
Like it or not, the Reds are in a bit of a slump at the moment. One point from six is concerning enough, but go back as far as Southampton and you’ll see we’ve actually picked up just five points from twelve. Perhaps our dreams of a title were silly in the first place, but if we don’t break this pattern and get back to winning ways then there’s little question that we’ll be waiting yet another year for the holy grail. Whichever way you look at it we’ve gone from being the country’s form team to one with a downward trajectory.
As for ‘Boro, they’re plodding along quite happily. They seem to be in a rough pattern of winning one, losing one and drawing one, with a random result thrown in for good measure. They lost to Saints last weekend but they beat Hull before that and drew with the defending Premier League champions Leicester City. They narrowly lost to Chelsea and have so far held Manchester City and Arsenal to draws in two away matches. They’ve won two of their last three at home and are unbeaten against us in seven at The Riverside.
Right now we’re six points behind Chelsea. Beat the Blues when they come to Anfield and we’re only three of the pace, so it’s vital we stop losing to bottom half teams and start racking up the points. Can we do it against Middlesbrough? Here are my thoughts on the matter:
Both Teams To Score
The pressure being mounted on Loris Karius from all quarters, including our own fans, is reaching an almost unbearable pitch. The ‘keeper hasn’t had the best of starts but I do think some of the criticism has been unfair; there have been as many occasions when he’s made important saves as there have been mistakes. That said, it’s difficult to deny that we’ve looked shaky at the back and ‘Boro are a side that looks setup to take advantage of that shakiness.
As much as Valdés has impressed and in combination with his defence been like a bunch of Scrooges, they’ve only kept five clean sheets so far this season and only two of them have been at home. The Reds have scored five goals in our last two games. Scoring hasn’t been a problem, stopping the opposition from doing so too has been. That’s why I think 5/2 for Both Teams To Score & Liverpool To Win Is worth looking at.
Origi To Make It Five From Five?
Like it or not, Jürgen Klopp has got a bit of a decision to make when it comes to Divock Origi. The striker has now scored four goals in four games, yet he’s actually contributing very little to the overall team performance. We lost a lot of what Firmino offers by pushing him out wide instead of playing him central, so the manager has to figure out whether he wants the potential goals offered by the Belgian at the sacrifice of our team shape and structure. You can get 6/4 for Origi To Score Anytime and that might just be worth a punt given his form.
Who Else Could Score?
I’ve been banging the ‘Joel Matip to score’ drum for some time now and it would be silly to change my mind on that the match after he managed to hit the bar from a corner. The odds are much longer for the defender to get on the scoresheet than his attacking team-mate, so you’ll obviously see much greater return on a £10 investment if you choose to opt for the 10/1 available for Matip to Score Anytime.
If I think both teams are going to score then it’s logical to suggest a Middlesbrough goalscorer. You can get 8/1 for Stewart Downing to Score Anytime if you’re like me and superstitiously believe that ex-players always come back to haunt us. If you think that Negredo will return from his short spell on the sidelines with a bang then you might be tempted to take up the 6/1 that you can find for Negredo as Last Goalscorer.
This is one of those rare occasions when I actually hope that my chief tip is wrong, yet I can’t help but feel that I’d be silly not to recommend that you bet on Liverpool to Win and Both Teams To Score @ 5/2. That our Cameroonian centre-back came so close to scoring against West Ham means that I can’t ignore him, so my other tip is the 10/1 available for Matip to Score Anytime.