Tonight we’re in for an absolutely classic encounter as Liverpool (3.25 at Betsafe) take on Chelsea (2.18) at Anfield, in the first leg of the League Cup semi final. Chelsea will walk in as presumptive league winners and buoyed by last weekend’s 5-0 thrashing of Swansea City. For Brendan Rodgers Liverpool, who have endured a slow and frankly disappointing season so far (8th in the league, out of the Champions League) this tie represents the best opportunity to take home silverware this season in any competition.
For these two sides, who last season found themselves close title rivals, it has been a tale of two transfer markets. Last Summer Jose Mourinho was given the funds to round off his perfect squad – bringing in midfielder Cesc Fabregas from Barcelona along with Diego Costa (centre forward) and Thibaut Courtois (goalkeeper) both from Atletico Madrid.
Liverpool, on the other hand, lost star forward Luis Suarez, albeit for the princely sum of £75m, and simply have not been able to reorganise their squad effectively since. Mario Balotelli, acquired for £16 million, is proving an expensive flop with just 2 goals in 18 games; while fellow summer signings Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert are struggling to replicate the form which brought them to Anfield.
However, Liverpool’s retiring captain and club legend Steven Gerrard has a few scores to settle with Chelsea. Last season his slip, which allowed Chelsea’s Demba Ba to score, was widely seen as the moment Liverpool lost the league. Gerrard would dearly love to mark his last season at Liverpool with real triumph – and seems irresistible at 4.70 to score.
So what can we expect from a game which will certainly raise the passions of both sets of fans? Firstly Chelsea are in fine scoring form; netting 14 times in their last 5 games in all competitions. Frankly it’s almost impossible to countenance Liverpool keeping a clean sheet, its just a question of whether they can reply at the other end. Brendan Rodgers best hope of taking his side to a cup final this season is to take a lead with him to Stamford Bridge for the second leg next week.
There are some intriguing betting markets, offered by Betsafe, which do seem to promise to hold some value. Even given Mourinho’s tendency to “park the bus” in big games, especially away from home, over 3.5 goals at 3.70 seems like a solid proposition. Given that Liverpool are 3.25 to win; home team to win by 1 goal at 5.45 also seems reasonable, given that Liverpool are extremely unlikely to run away with the tie this evening.
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