The tired old cliché asking whether a team ‘can do it on a wet Wednesday night in Stoke’ takes on some real significance tonight for Liverpool, who travel to fortress Britannia Stadium for a Carling Cup tie fraught with danger to their hopes of ending a five-year trophy drought.
The Reds haven’t won any silverware since the Steven Gerrard-inspired FA Cup final win over West Ham United in 2006 and with no European football this term, the noises coming out of Anfield suggest the Carling Cup is for once being taken seriously.
Yet if you were to compile a list of places Liverpool didn’t want to be heading in the fourth round, Stoke City would be right near the top. Put simply, Liverpool have not laid a glove away to Tony Pulis’ men since their promotion in 2008.
In four Premier League trips, Liverpool have scored just once, courtesy of one of the ugliest strikes in Premier League history from Sotirios Kyrgiakos (I’m talking about the goal, not the big Greek) and have failed to win, drawing twice and losing on their last two visits.
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Admittedly, how Kenny Dalglish’s men lost September’s league fixture 1-0 is a mystery such was their dominance, but that match has set a pattern of profligacy that has seen Liverpool stutter due to their inability to hit the back of the net consistently, with the otherwise sensational Luis Suarez the number one culprit.
And with a record like that against a Stoke team unbeaten at home in eight matches in all competitions, the prices on offer point to nothing other than siding with Stoke. A home win after 90 minutes is 5/2 with bwin, with the draw at 9/4 and a Liverpool away win at 11/10, but the stats show how short Liverpool are.
Punters joining bwin.com receive a free £25 bet and placing this on Stoke to win the match inside the distance would return £87.50 should the Potters achieve this feat.
While the Reds have kept just two clean sheets all season – away to Arsenal and Everton, who were both reduced to ten men – at the Britannia Stoke have shut out Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Fulham (twice) and Maccabi Haifa this season, as well as holding Manchester United to a 1-1 draw.
It gives you some idea of the task facing Liverpool and with the Reds struggling to score goals, I cannot see Stoke getting beat in 90 minutes.
With that in mind, there are some interesting odds. Stoke are obviously huge at 5/2, but if we factor in the draw we can still make some profit. Stoke plus a goal is 18/25, but the 29/20 draw no bet is well priced, as is the 13/10 for Stoke to qualify, meaning any sort of Stoke win (normal time, extra time or penalties) will pay you out. Liverpool are also 11/4 not to score, which looks on the big side to me.
A caveat as always in the Carling Cup – check the team news before placing your bets, as any number of changes are likely.
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