Premier League Betting: Liverpool v Sunderland
A schizophrenic Liverpool team that can beat Real Madrid away from home yet lose to Middlesbrough just three days later hosts Sunderland on Tuesday night and Richard Walker predicts a tight one. Best bet: Under 2.5 goals @ [1.85].
The assertion that Liverpool find it nigh on impossible to win a match when either Steven Gerrard or Fernando Torres is missing is a strong one - and while it might be a little wide of the mark, their results of recent weeks takes the theory a step or two on from simply coincidence.
Sunderland will be buoyed by Torres' continued absence through injury and hope to welcome back some of their own side-lined stars; strikers Djibril Cisse, Kenwyne Jones, along with Steed Malbranque could all play, along with Phil Bardsley who's back from a ban.
I'm sure these names barely register with the increasingly smug Rafa Benitez. He's so wrapped up in himself right now - and particularly the battle to get his own way over transfers and see the back of CEO Rick Parry - that he might not even have noticed the Reds tumbling out of the title race.
Cheap comments like "finishing second would still be an achievement" won't endear him to those who wanted this to be the year Liverpool finally ended nearly two decades without the league crown.
I cannot with any positivity suggest you back the Anfield hosts at [1.46] - it's simply too short for me as a stand-alone price (The Draw is [4.4] and the visitors an [11.0] shot. Instead, make Under 2.5 goals the bet of the night at [1.85] to back. Overs is [2.16] but I don't see Ricky Sbragia's Sunderland allowing it to become anywhere near as open a contest as the Reds would wish.
In fact, you could do worse than include Under 1.5 goals in your betting portfolio for this match. It's [3.55] to back but, if the hosts are to prevail, I can genuinely see only one goal in it. Sbragia's got the Black Cats well-organised and, although they're not totally out of the mire, the ship is a steady one now.
This leads onto a low-scoring Correct Score scenario. I'm going to do a usual 80%-20% split here, between 1-0 to the Reds at [7.0] and 0-0, a [12.0] chance. You might prefer 3-0 Liverpool [11.0] or the surprise of visiting success: 2-1 Sunderland is a fancy [40.0], for example.
They might run riot of course, the would-be title-winners. But if they do, I can see it being a cagey start followed by a flashy second-half, borne maybe of desperation. The Draw as a HT result appeals at [2.46] to back and you should consider your options carefully. How about playing that one instead of the Match Odds for once? Or doing both and trading your position on the back of a successful first 45 minutes?
So I'm bound to favour Draw/Something in the HT/FT options. Draw/Draw is [7.0] and worth a look, though I might cover on Draw/Liverpool at [4.6] if I went that route. More conventional wisdom would see you backing Liverpool/Liverpool at [2.26], while the crazy few will be hoping for a game of two halves...Sunderland/Liverpool is priced at [34.0] for the brave or insane!
Goalscoring markets are difficult to call when it's not altogether certain who'll be playing. Steven Gerrard won't be much above evens To Score at any time however, if you're into low-risk, low-returns punting then he, more than anyone, will be the man to side with for this Tuesday evening televised treat.
Djibril Cisse wouldn't be the first ex-Liverpool striker to return to Anfield and score against his former employers this season.
A thriller, then? Well, I won't be sad if it's not.