So which Liverpool is going to turn up against Stoke City at Anfield on Sunday?
The one who were so pathetically abject in defeat at Sunderland last weekend, or the one that so impressively tore apart local rivals Everton in victory on Tuesday?
That a team can produce two such contrasting performances in the space of three days has many scratching their heads, but such has been Liverpool’s season.
Great performances have been punctuated by woeful ones and you simply don’t know what you are going to get from week to week.
An absence of Champions League football and the policy of buying ‘potential’ (I use that term in the loosest sense of the word) has resulted in Liverpool’s squad being filled with inconsistent players, some of whom will take years to become top notch, while others will never get there (ahem, Charlie Adam).
It explains the wild discrepancy in performance levels from Liverpool this year, why their current place of seventh in the Premier League is fair, but also why they are doing so well in the domestic cups.
It was typically Liverpool that en route to lifting the Carling Cup, they played extremely well in winning away at Stoke, Chelsea and Manchester City but made a dog’s dinner of beating Championship Cardiff in the final.
Similarly, days before beating Manchester United in the FA Cup fourth round at Anfield, the Reds turned in their worst performance of the season in losing 3-1 at Bolton.
The reason is that over the course of a season the players aren’t good enough to maintain such high standards, but in a one-off tie are able to rouse themselves sufficiently against any opposition.
It is why I am predicting a Liverpool victory against Stoke in Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final, despite the Merseysiders’ recent disappointing record against the Potters.
When you see that seven of the nine meetings between the two sides since 2008 have had under 2.5 goals, the 9/4 that Liverpool progress 1-0 or 2-0 is a knocking bet.
Liverpool are 2/5 to get that win with bwin, with Stoke priced up at 29/4 and the draw quoted as a 13/4 shot.
Having guided Stoke to the final last season, Tony Pulis is again taking the FA Cup seriously and has got this far in the tournament with the minimum of fuss.
Away wins at lower-league opposition in the form of Gillingham, Derby County and Crawley Town have been achieved impressively and with no scares whatsoever and Pulis will go to Anfield hoping to secure a draw and a replay back at the Britannia.
Stoke have achieved that result in two of their four visits to Anfield since their promotion to the Premier League in 2008 and their gameplan of sitting deep and frustrating Liverpool has worked more often than not.
At home, Stoke have a 2-2-1 record against Liverpool in that time and will see a return match and a raucous, midweek atmosphere in the Potteries as their best chance of progressing.
Unfortunately for Pulis, Stoke are yet to score at Anfield since 2008 and what’s more, they have hardly had a shot in anger in four games.
I don’t expect that to change, which is why instead of taking the all-too-short 2/5 on a home win, look at the 9/4 that Liverpool win a match that has under 2.5 goals.
As everyone knows, Liverpool do not score bagfuls at home – Tuesday night’s victory against Everton was only the fifth time in 18 games that Kenny Dalglish’s men have scored three or more at Anfield and two of those came against lower league Oldham and Brighton – and Stoke are sure to pack their defence and frustrate again.
But there were signs of some improved understanding between Luis Suarez, Andy Carroll and Steven Gerrard on Tuesday (incredibly, that was the first league match the trio have started together) and I think Liverpool will have enough to break through eventually.
And when you see that seven of the nine meetings between the two sides since 2008 have had under 2.5 goals, the 9/4 that Liverpool progress 1-0 or 2-0 is a knocking bet.
Recommended bet: Liverpool to win a game of under 2.5 goals @ 9/4
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