Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish has warned his team they must treat this evening’s Premier League match against Fulham like any other despite it coming just four days before the FA Cup final.
The Reds take on Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday looking to secure their second domestic cup of the season and their players would be forgiven for having half an eye on the Wembley showpiece.
But according to Dalglish, not concentrating fully on the job in hand is the surest way of ending up injured, suggesting that the timing of the match will not boost Fulham’s chances as much as they had hoped.
However, this ignores the fact that, even if the Liverpool players on the pitch try their hardest, it is far from assured that Dalglish will select a first-choice team to start the match.
Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard are the two players most likely to be given a rest by the Scot to ensure they are at their sharpest on Saturday.
Liverpool’s poor home record needs to be weighed up against Fulham’s struggles on the road.
And given Suarez and Gerrard are the foremost attacking talents available to Dalglish, could this open the door for Fulham to gain at least a point?
As it is, Liverpool are odds-on for the victory at 11/20 in bwin’s 3Way football betting market, with the draw at 3/1 and a Fulham success at 19/4.
Before last weekend’s round of matches I discussed how Liverpool look too short to consider backing away to Norwich given their odds-on status ahead of the match at Carrow Road.
And although the Reds went on to win fairly comfortably, it remains the case that a team who have lost half the league matches they have played away this season are by no means certainties to pick up three points on their travels.
The same could be said for Liverpool’s chances of a win at home, where they have won just five league matches in 17 attempts.
So given the Reds are set to field a weakened team, surely this means that punters should take advantage of odds of 27/20 that Fulham earn at least a point?
After all, a successful £25 free bet on this outcome is set to return £58.75.
However, Liverpool’s poor home record needs to be weighed up against Fulham’s struggles on the road.
Martin Jol’s men have won just three times on their travels in the league this season and have lost nine of their 17 matches away from Craven Cottage.
Most worryingly of all, they have only scored 11 times, and against a Liverpool team with the joint-second best defensive record at home in the league this could prove to be their undoing.
Liverpool to keep a clean sheet at 6/5 therefore looks a good price, particularly as Fulham haven’t scored in their last five visits to Anfield, have drawn blanks in three of their last four away games and suffered a 4-0 defeat on Merseyside to Everton just three days ago.
Alternatively, given Liverpool could be without Suarez and Gerrard and that their travails at home this season have been a result of a lack ruthlessness in front of goal, under 2.5 goals looks to hold value at 19/20 as over 2.5 goals is at 4/5.
One final scenario to consider is that the players Dalglish selects do their best to impress their boss ahead of the cup final and actually prove more effective than the first-choice starting eleven have proved at Anfield so far this season.
Certainly, the likes of Craig Bellamy and Maxi Rodriguez have shown in the past that they have the attacking flair to unlock even the tightest of defences, and Fulham could find what might have been considered a good time to play Liverpool turns out to be anything but.
This leaves a Liverpool win with under 2.5 goals a tempter at 29/10.
Liverpool to keep a clean sheet @ 6/5
Under 2.5 goals @ 19/20
Liverpool to win with under 2.5 goals @ 29/10
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