If you take a look at the Liverpool squad that has travelled to Switzerland for the Reds’ Europa League group stage opener, you might be forgiven for thinking that Young Boys is the nickname of the team rather than the name of their opponents on Thursday evening.
In the clearest indication yet that manager Brendan Rodgers is treating The Competition Formerly Known as the UEFA Cup with the sort of disdain he showed Andy Carroll, the former Swansea boss has taken a largely inexperienced 20-man squad over to face the Swiss side that shows exactly where his priorities lie.
To be honest, Rodgers has little choice. The already thin squad he inherited has been thinned even more over the summer thanks to a recruitment policy which has left Liverpool with just two recognised strikers – and only then if you would describe Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini as such.
In six of Liverpool’s last seven away fixtures in the Europe League (a run that stretches back to the reign of Roy Hodgson) there has been one goal or less, a sequence that includes three 0-0 draws, a 1-0 loss and, under Rodgers, a pair of 1-0 victories.
And so with numbers down, in a sign of things to come in the Europa League Rodgers has drafted in a series of youngsters who, in his own words, are being ‘fast-tracked’ into first team contention on a needs-must basis. Samed Yesil, Suso, Conor Coady, Andre Wisdom, Adam Morgan, Peter Gulacsi and Dani Pacheco – a mixture of Academy graduates and players plucked from other clubs – are all in the squad, which tells you everything about where Liverpool find themselves at this moment in time.
There is some experience in the travelling contingent (Jamie Carragher, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique are present) but with Manchester United at Anfield on Sunday, Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger are among those left at home as Rodgers makes the clash with the club’s arch rivals his number one focus.
Liverpool don’t have the squad to compete in the Europa League as well as domestically, and having taken just two points from four games to remain winless in the Premier League, Rodgers would happily ditch the Europa League into the Mersey.
It makes the odds for the match with Young Boys interesting. The Reds are 31/20 favourites, but that is a price that obviously takes into account the team that Liverpool will field. Young Boys are 33/20 to win in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, with the draw at 11/5, but it could be worth looking at a lack of goals, which has been a trend in the Reds’ away games in the Europa League.
Young Boys, who gave Tottenham Hotspur a scare in the Champions League qualifiers a couple of seasons ago, are currently fifth in the ten-team Swiss Super League and come into the match in indifferent form, winning three of their last six, and even if the price of 33/20 on a home win is more tempting than the 31/20 on an away victory, the 2/1 on there being fewer than two goals is my play here.
In six of Liverpool’s last seven away fixtures in the Europe League (a run that stretches back to the reign of Roy Hodgson) there has been one goal or less, a sequence that includes three 0-0 draws, a 1-0 loss and, under Rodgers, a pair of 1-0 victories. The other match of the seven finished 1-1, and it seems that changing the team around to include reserves and youngsters is making for rather uneventful matches.
That is understandable as fluidity is sorely lacking, and that could well be the case on Thursday. As such, the 2/1 on under 1.5 goals is worth a play.
Recommended bet: Under 1.5 goals @ 2/1
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