This Liverpool team needs a win. There have been other sides in the history of the Premier League that have needed a win more, but this side are desperate for a victory of any sort. So far this January the only time we’ve been victorious was against Plymouth Argyle. The fact that they are three divisions below us and that we needed a replay to get the win should tell you everything you need to know about where the team’s at right now. That Lucas Leiva is the only player to have scored a winning goal in 2017 should also set alarm bells ringing.
Here’s the thing, though. Now that the dust has settled on the 1-0 loss to Southampton we can look back on it dispassionately and the truth is that we didn’t play that badly. The second-half in particular had more energy and dynamism than any of our games since perhaps Stoke City on the 27th of December. This game will tell us whether we’re on our way out of our slump or whether it’s set to continue. With Chelsea arriving at Anfield on Tuesday it’s fair to say we could do with it being the former. A big win here would be great, but any win is important. So what’s the news and what bets should you be placing?
Jürgen Klopp is probably in the middle of the most difficult moment as Liverpool manager. One win in the last seven games in all competitions has seen some idiots calling phone-ins and saying he should be sacked. He’s not even close to that point but he does have some decisions to make to get us out of our current funk, starting with his line-up for the visit of Wolves. Does he go strong, knowing that a loss would kill confidence before Chelsea, or weak in order to save his players for the visit of the blues?
In his pre-match press conference the German said that Adam Lallana suffered a cut against Southampton that has had to have stitches. He said that they’ll need to test the work before decided if the stitches are strong enough to cope with a game, though my instinct is that he’ll be rested. He also said that he was hopeful that Nathaniel Clyne will be able to play after his rib problems. To quote the manager, “We won’t be making ten changes or something”. That suggests to me that he’s going to go half-strong half-not.
He’s been playing Loris Karius in the cup matches all season and I’d expect that to continue, but what of his central defensive pairing? What will he choose to do about the midfield, having dropped Wijnaldum for the cup game and favoured Emre Can? If he goes for a halfway house approach then I think the line-up will be: Karius – Clyne – Matip – Lovren – Moreno – Henderson – Wijnaldum – Ejaria – Coutinho – Ojo – Origi. If he goes stronger then replace Ejaria with Can and Ojo with Firmino. I’m hopeful Milner gets a rest as he’s looked knackered lately.
The biggest problem facing Paul Lambert and Wolverhampton Wanderers is in the goalkeeping department. Carl Ikeme was sent off at the weekend for pushing Wes Hoolahan in the chest after the Norwich player appeared to dive to win a penalty. Their senior reserve ‘keeper Andy Lonergan has been out injured and is only just returning, meaning he’s not at full fitness. That means that shot-stopping duties will fall onto 20-year-old Harry Burgoyne, their third choice goalkeeper.
Lambert made numerous changes for his side’s Third Round tie against Stoke City, including giving a debut off the bench to 17-year-old Morgan Gibbs-White. He’s only just signed his first professional contract and will be hopeful he’ll get another chance at Anfield. The Wolves manager will be tempted to go with a strong side considering Liverpool’s recent woes, but he’ll also be aware that a win over Barnsley in the Championship on Tuesday will almost certainly guarantee them safety from relegation. What team he goes with is, frankly, anyone’s guess.
As I’ve already said, Liverpool’s form isn’t great. One win in seven in all competitions isn’t much to write home about and could be the start of a rot setting in if the manager isn’t careful. That we’ve also lost two games in a row at Anfield having previously been unbeaten there is also a worry. That said, there’s no time like the present to get back to winning ways. LDWLL is how our last five games look when you go on nothing but the results, so things are rather bleak right now.
Wolves are having a slightly more mixed January, having drawn one, won two and lost one of their last five. The wins came away to Stoke in the FA Cup and at home to Aston Villa, whilst the loss was to Norwich City but they were heading for a draw before Ikeme saw red. If you were the two managers you’d far rather be in Paul Lambert’s position than Jürgen Klopp’s, put it that way. Having said all that it’s still worth bearing in mind that Wolves are only seven points from the drop zone in the Championship. They’ll likely be safe, but they aren’t pulling up any trees right now.
It’s not easy predicting the way things are going to go for Liverpool at the moment. Players aren’t playing to the best of their ability and Jürgen Klopp isn’t lining them up in a way that will help them out. Even so, here are my betting tips for the Wolves game:
Both Teams To Score
It’s a sad state of affairs at the moment that it’s difficult to imagine Liverpool making it through ninety minutes without conceding a goal. In the seven games we’ve played so far in January we’ve only kept two clean sheets and that was in the two games against Plymouth Argyle. We kept three out of six clean sheets in December, too, so it’s not as if this is a new issue. However one thing we have been able to do – unless we’ve been playing Southampton – is score goals. Two against Sunderland, one against United and two against Swansea, to be precise.
Whilst we’ve been struggling to keep cleanies Wolves have only failed to score once since the start of December. That’s why it’s impossible to look past the idea of both teams scoring in this Fourth Round match-up. It’s 5/6 for Both Teams To Score, though, so there’s not a huge amount of profit to be made there. That grows to 9/5 for Liverpool to Win and BTTS, so that’s a little more worthy of a bet. If you’re not confident of a home win given the state of things then Draw & BTTS @ 11/2 might tempt you.
As always, if I think that both teams are going to score then it really begs the question, who will be scoring the goals? The truth is that there isn’t much value in the Anytime Goalscorer market when it comes to Liverpool players. Daniel Sturridge is 4/6 to Score Anytime, for example, so you’ll not be running to the bookies to place that bet. Personally I’m tempted by the 6/1 odds for Matip to Score Anytime, given the defender’s ability to cause trouble at set-pieces.
The best value is actually in Wolves players scoring. Helder Costa, who is on loan at Molineux from Benfica, is the club’s top scorer at present having found the net nine times in all competitions. Costa is 5/1 to Score Anytime and it would be silly not to have a look at that.
Andreas Weimann knows what it’s like to play the Reds both from his time at Villa and from the EFL Cup game against us when he was at Derby County earlier in the season. He’s 5/1 to Score Anytime, too.
Another Tight Game?
Anyone expecting Liverpool to cruise to a victory in this is likely to be disappointed. The form of the two teams suggests a close encounter that Liverpool should just have enough to win. Liverpool to Win and Under 3.5 Goals is 6/5. Not long odds, but good ones. If you think I’m wrong and expect a whitewash then you might want to have a look at Liverpool to Win and Over 4.5 Goals @ 3/1.
Will the real Liverpool please stand up? If they do then we could be in for a treat. If they don’t it could be another one of *those* games that no one wants to watch. I’m going to opt for Liverpool to Win and Both Teams to Score @ 9/5 as my first bet, with a 2-1 scoreline likely. I reckon Wolves’ goal will come from Helder Costa Anytime, which is 5/1, so that will be my other chief tip. Can we stay in this cup for another few weeks?