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30/1/2009 No.24
rendspotting Football/Rugby
Dan Roebuck
Friday 30 Jan 2009
  Bookies doubt Liverpool will last the course as United attract £40,000 bet
The bookmakers have never been convinced that Liverpool are equipped to win the title this season. And, now that the midweek stalemate against Wigan has seen Rafael Benítez's side slip out of the top two for the first time since the opening weekend, the layers, who have not gone shorter than 5-2, have pushed Liverpool out to 8-1.

Failure to beat Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday would probably see Liverpool's odds of capturing a first league crown since 1990 drift to double figures. Bet365 expects Liverpool to finish third, offering 11-8 (in from 13-8) after the 1-1 draw at the JJB Stadium.

Chelsea's Premier League challenge has also faltered in recent months as they have taken just four wins from their past 10 games. However, the firms are more cautious about lengthening their title odds, with 4-1 (Bet365 and Sportingbet) the best available heading into this weekend.

The indifferent form of both clubs seems to have handed Manchester United the advantage. The Ladbrokes punter from the north-east who bet £40,000 last week on United winning the title at 4-7 will be feeling fairly comfortable. The champions are now a standout 4-9 with Stan James.

This weekend's fixture will be harder to call than recent Liverpool v Chelsea games. The previous encounter saw Liverpool deservedly end Chelsea's 86-match unbeaten run at home in the league, courtesy of a 1–0 win. They were priced at 4-1 to win at Stamford Bridge in October because they were not expected to get more than a draw. On Sunday, the bookmakers make Liverpool 6-4 (general) favourites, with Chelsea 9-4 (Stan James) and the draw also 9-4 (Betfred and Boylesports).

Incidentally, the Blues have not gone four league games without an away victory since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003 but are currently winless in three on the road.

In the past Benítez has set his side up to frustrate Chelsea but on Sunday the onus will be on Liverpool to take the initia­tive, with the visitors likely to play on the counter-attack. Previous tactics used by the Liverpool manager have helped make this fixture profitable for those looking to back few goals in the game. In the 20 competitive games between the sides since Benítez's appointment in 2004, only two have produced more than two goals and 11 have witnessed one or none. It is no surprise to see one IG Sport customer selling total goals in the game at 2.2 for £7,500 per goal. Boylesports offer a top price of 8-13 on there being fewer than three goals, Paddy Power offer 7-4 there are fewer than two. Both could represent a good bet.

Should Chelsea play on the break, Nicolas Anelka represents fair value at 7-1 (general) to score the first goal of the game. The Premier League's top scorer, who has struck four times against Liverpool in his league career in England (all for Manchester City) is 12-5 with Sky Bet to score. It is also perhaps telling that the French striker, who is 11-4 (general) to top the goalscoring charts at the end of the season, is responsible for more than a third of Chelsea's 23 goals away from home in the league this season.

A potentially better punt could be to back Salomon Kalou at 12-1 with Ladbrokes to get the opener. Since Joe Cole has been injured, the Ivorian has been a regular starter for Chelsea and netted twice in the midweek win over Boro. His pace on the break will be a huge asset and a small-stakes each-way flutter is advised.

A bet recommended in this column that has proved money-spinning in the past 18 months has been to go low on corners when "big four" teams play each other. Not one of the last 19 league games featuring any two of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or United has produced more than 11 flag kicks – even though Sunday's opponents rank highly in the "Corners for" table this term, Liverpool being joint top with 168 and Chelsea fourth with 146.

This Sunday Sporting Index quote total corners at 10–10.5 and a sell is recommended, a statistically sound trade.
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