English Premier League
Saturday, 7 April 2012 – Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
They’re closer to bottom than top in the Barclays Premier League, with arch rivals Manchester United 24-points ahead of them in the table as the Red Devils close in on a 20th English league title, while there will be no Champions League football for a third successive season after failing to keep pace with the top-four protagonists. Yet Liverpool’s players WOULD NOT be forgiven for thinking the league season is effectively over.
Everton are above them in the table, so that in itself should serve as a motivation for the team, but there is even the prospect – a realistic one at that – of the Reds suffering the ignominy of finishing the campaign in the lower half of the table. The beleaguered Anfield outfit have won only one of their last eight Premier League matches, six of which were defeats, and have slipped to eighth in the table, one point behind locals Everton and just three above Norwich City in twelfth.
It could be worse for Kop boss Kenny Dalglish. He could be Alex McLeish, the man in the opposite dugout whose Aston Villa team are going through a similarly woeful stretch of form. And, after also winning just one of their last eight Premier League matches, are now considered genuine contenders for relegation. Villa are three places and five points above the drop zone, and what’s more is that they can barely string a team together right now what with so many key figures out injured (Richard Dunne, Stiliyan Petrov, Charles N’Zogbia and Darren Bent to name but a few on the sidelines).
Liverpool have an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on the horizon, but any thoughts of facing Everton in London will have to be put to one side this weekend, as nothing is more important right now than getting disgruntled fans back on side with a well overdue victory. And they should as well – earn victory, as they are playing a Villa side in dire straits whose team-sheet last weekend, in the 4-2 home defeat by Chelsea, consisted of half-a-dozen youngsters and very little in the way of experience or proven quality.
Still, I wouldn’t want to put my money where my mouth is at odds of 9/20 (BetVictor) on a rare Anfield win for the hosts, whom have won only a third of their home league games all season. It could, then, pay, in a match between two out of sorts sides, to oppose the form book and back a striker whose strike record in the league this term makes for dismal reading but produced one of his best performances in a Reds shirt in last week’s 2-0 defeat away to Newcastle.
Andy Carroll has made a total of 29 appearances for Liverpool in the Premier League this season, and yet his goal return is just three. It’s all a tad embarrassing for a striker that set his current club back in the region of £35m when they lured him away from Newcastle in January 2011. But for the first 45 minutes at St James’ Park, the misfiring forward was the most threatening player on the pitch, in either final third. Another menacing display like that could help him to a goal on Saturday – who knows, possibly even more.
There isn’t a team in the top-flight who get anywhere near the tally of goals that Aston Villa have conceded from corners (13), thus highlighting their deficiencies in the air. Most of those goals were shipped with defender Richard Dunne in the side, so without the Irishman in the ranks, Villa are even more vulnerable from the air. And as it happens, Liverpool have earned more corners this season than any other side.
So there is some logic behind our selection, with Andy Carroll backed to score this weekend at odds of 15/8 with StanJames. If the 6ft 3in Geordie doesn’t net, Martin Skrtel may well do so instead. The Slovakian, who is also stands in at 6ft 3in, is an imposing figure from set-plays and has four goals for the season, three of which were scored directly from a corner while one of which came in the reverse fixture at Villa Park in a routine 2-0 win for Daliglsh’s men.
Andy Carrol First Goalscorer @ 11/2 Bet365 (general price)