In-form Cazorla should relish Liverpool trip

Santi Cazorla will look to pull the strings once more after tearing apart Newcastle United last week

Santi Cazorla will look to pull the strings once more after tearing apart Newcastle United last week

What extraordinary times these are for Liverpool. After coming within one slip of winning a first league title since 1990 last term, they have endured an unimaginably nightmarish first half to this season. Gone is Luis Suárez and, perhaps not coincidentally, gone are the goals. The Reds, so easy on the eye as they powered through the Spring of 2014, are now a team with a distinct lack of direction and one in desperate need of inspiration. They have picked up just 14 points from the last 30 available and have already suffered defeats to the likes of Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Aston Villa. That they have only managed seven league goals all season at Anfield tells its own story.

They have been hit hard by the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge (he has not featured in a Liverpool shirt since August) while summer arrival Mario Balotelli has found life in front of goal difficult. Steven Gerrard’s performances have begun to deteriorate rapidly and Dejan Lovren and Simon Mignolet have suffered horrendous starts to the season. The Reds did manage to negotiate a potential banana skin in Bournemouth in the league cup in midweek, but serious questions still hang over their defensive solidity.

 

A miserable run of form culminating in last Sunday’s dismantling at the hands of Manchester United means they languish in eleventh place in the Premier League but they still have a chance of making the top four – down largely to the inconsistency of those above them more than anything else. The gap currently stands at seven points but it will surely widen quickly unless Liverpool experience a marked improvement in the next few weeks.

But things won’t get any easier for Brendan Rodgers’ men, with Sunday seeing the visit of Arsenal. The Gunners have recovered well since their calamitous defeat at Stoke City, with progression to the knockout stages of the Champions League as well as a convincing defeat over in-form Newcastle achieved since then. Olivier Giroud is back fit and firing and he has injected some much-needed impetus into Arsenal’s season. Problems still abound for Arsène Wenger’s side but for all the talk of crisis at the Emirates, they know a win on Sunday could lift them as high as fourth.

 

Liverpool v Arsenal Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 7/4

Arsenal win 29/20

Draw 23/10

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Arsenal’s fanbase has never been more divided over whether Wenger should remain in charge, but the Frenchman’s skin is thicker than most and he will be focusing solely on the job in hand this weekend. Santi Cazorla turned in a mesmerising performance in the 4-1 win over Newcastle last Saturday and he is likely to start again at Anfield. If he can rediscover his best form after an indifferent start to the campaign then the Gunners will have one of the division’s most exciting number tens. He may have just turned thirty but he still has lots to give and could very well make the difference on Sunday.

Arsenal will remain without Laurent Koscielny and Aaron Ramsey, though, who along with Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Mesut Özil form an extensive injury list. Nacho Monreal will hope to return to the matchday squad while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is a slight doubt.

Liverpool’s injury woes are far less pronounced; apart from long-term absentees Daniel Sturridge and Jon Flanagan, Glen Johnson is their only concern. He will face a late fitness test.

 

Despite Arsenal’s drastically reduced options they still go into this game as overwhelming favourites. A repeat of their last visit to Anfield, when they were blown away with four early goals and went on to lose 5-1, somehow looks unlikely. That was only in February but already it seems an eternity ago. Liverpool’s confidence has been shot to pieces and while Arsenal remain shaky away from home they would be disappointed to come away on the end of a defeat.

We know Liverpool have the players to lift themselves from their current predicament, but it’s increasingly difficult to see where the next win is coming from. If Raheem Sterling can display the same scoring touch he showed at Dean Court on Wednesday then they will have a chance, but the young Englishman has been inconsistent at best this season. A victory on Sunday could definitely provide them with the momentum to start climbing the table but if there’s one word that sums the Reds up at the moment it’s ‘fragile’. Any early setback is likely to derail them, and Arsenal will look to take full advantage of this.

 

Betting Instinct tip Draw at half-time/Arsenal at full-time is 9/2 with Intertops.eu

 

Jack C avatarJACK CHATTERTON is a student and long-suffering Spurs fan, who has written for In Bed With Maradona and  Sabotage Times, among others. You can read his miscellaneous and quite modest blog, or follow him on Twitter

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Will Liverpool and Man City miss key men in Champions League showdowns?

Who will be missed more, Sergio Aguero or Daniel Sturridge?

Who will be missed more, Sergio Aguero or Daniel Sturridge?

While Chelsea and Arsenal have sealed their progress to the Champions League second round with a game to spare, things are not so simple for the remaining two Premier League representatives.

A combination of tough opponents and underwhelming performances have left Liverpool and Manchester City with a tough task to qualify, but both have their fate in their own hands going into matchday 6.

Liverpool v FC Basel Betting Odds:

Liverpool win 7/10

Basel win 7/2

Draw 53/20

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Liverpool’s return to European football’s top table for the first time in five years has been overshadowed by attacking woes, with Daniel Sturridge’s absence through injury adding to the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona. Strikers Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert have scored just once each in the five group games so far, with Brendan Rodgers’ side picking up just one more point after a narrow win over Ludogorets in their opening game.

However victory over FC Basel would be enough to ensure progress behind group winners Real Madrid. The Swiss champions edged past the Reds at home thanks to a Marco Streller goal, but have won just one of their last five away games in the competition. That was in England, though, when a Streller winner made the difference against Chelsea last season.

An absent striker is the main story for Manchester City as well, with the injury picked up by Sergio Aguero in Saturday’s victory over Everton ruling the Argentine out of Wednesday’s trip to Roma. And after his hat-trick in a last-gasp win over Bayern Munich, it is fair to say that Aguero will be missed, with Stevan Jovetic and Edin Dzeko both yet to score in the competition this season.

Like their fellow Premier League club, City have just one win from five games so far. However, due to a quirk in the Champions League’s head-to-head tiebreaker, Manuel Pellegrini’s men could progress with six points or exit with eight. All they know is defeat in the Italian capital (or a goalless draw) would see them eliminated.

Will we have a repeat of 2012-13, where two English sides failed to make it past the group stage, or could we still see the perfect qualification record enjoyed by Premier League outfits last season?

Betting Instinct tip Liverpool to win and Manchester City to win or draw is 2.6 with Intertops.eu

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter.

Five incidents bound to happen during Manchester City vs. Liverpool

David Silva's Premier League campaign is already an improvement on his World Cup

David Silva’s Premier League campaign is already an improvement on his World Cup

Remember the World Cup? How good was that! Remember all the big games that happened right at the start and all the goals that were scored to get everyone into the mood in record time?

Well turns out that the World Cup was such a good idea that the Premier League have gone and borrowed its best bits in order to make sure the beginning of the new season doesn’t disappoint after all the fun of the summer. By which I mean they’ve scheduled a really rather large fixture to be played in the second round of matches: last year’s champions, Manchester City, against last year’s runners-up Liverpool.

 

Manchester City v Liverpool Betting Odds:

Manchester City win – 1.85

Liverpool win – 4.00

Draw – 3.50

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Clearly this game is set for yet more Brazil 2014-themed surprises to spice up the action, with kick-off scheduled for an appropriately trans-Atlantic 8pm on a Monday evening. If that’s not group stage scheduling, I don’t know what is.

So without further ado, here’s what’s probably, definitely, bound to happen as Manuel Pellegrini’s Premier League winners take on Brendan Rodgers’ Champions League returnees, for a chance to top Group A, which is the only group in this competition.

 

Someone will score a really good headed goal from a left-back’s cross

And that left-back will most likely be Glen Johnson, who started on his non-natural flank against Southampton in Liverpool’s opening game of the season.

With Daniel Sturridge set to start up front for the Reds, the displaced right-back will stumble upon some space, look up and see his England team mate dashing towards Joe Hart’s area.

We’ll then watch, disbelievingly, as Johnson produce the cross of his career with the part-time sandwich artist jumping up and flopping like a salmon (teriyaki, with extra green peppers? – Ed.) to head the ball into City’s net.

 

Luis Suarez will bite someone again

On Twitter anyway, because as far as English football goes, Luis don’t live here anymore.

That’s right, while the action takes place on the field of play, thousands of rehashed memes and tired, old jokes will surge forth onto various social media channels.

Liverpool will “lack bite”, according to the pictorial punchlines that are to come. Some will overreach in an attempt to force relevancy. A Uruguayan family will go hungry without a supply of Martin Demichelis’ shoulder meat, they’ll say. In text speak.

Maybe some will go for a different angle, trying to use Rickie Lambert’s lesser-known past as a beetroot technician to create an ethical, vegetarian friendly version of all this great new ‘comedy’ that will be taking place. It’ll be like football itself has taken the trapezium muscle of an Italian defender and won itself a transfer to BBC Three, to play alongside Nick Grimshaw and Russell Kane or something.

 

A physio will be injured

Gary Lewin’s stumble against Italy will not have happened in vain. The Premier League are already making plans for the fourth official to go behind one of the team’s physios during the game and take out their knees with a large spanner, as a loving tribute to the fallen England backroom staffer.

No word yet as to who the bookies think the man in the stands will target, but it’s sure to only add to the tense occasion that will be gripping the Etihad, as fans pour into the stadium to see who will be left standing at the end of 90 minutes.

 

Liverpool’s South Americans will sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” really loud for ages just before kick-off, which City’s Brazilians will boo mercilessly

One of the most endearing features of the World Cup was the heart, passion and a capella abilities shown by the South American fans prior to the start of their teams’ games.

Brazil and Chile in particularly showed off the intensity of feeling held by their players and fans during their national anthems. In order to bring some of that pre-match vibrancy to the Premier League, Liverpool’s South Americans will be encouraged by officials to belt out that Rogers & Hammerstein classic, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

As an added twist however, City’s Brazilians will be allowed to try and disrupt the singing without censor, much as their fellow countrymen in the stands did with boos and whistles when Chile and Brazil met in the second round this summer.

It’s at this point that the sponsors will begin to feel a little nervous over the whole charade.

 

Both sets of fans will peer into the future and realise that neither City or Liverpool can win this year due to their lack of Germans

Germany won the World Cup, so it stands to reason that they’ll also win the a post-World Cup, World Cup-themed Premier League. That’s logic.

Therefore, the title is between Chelsea and Arsenal, which means Jose Mourinho’s already won it.

City do have the best Argentinians in the league however, so second-place is theirs. Meanwhile, it’s doesn’t look good for English talent-laden Liverpool. Roy Hodgson’s team didn’t even make it out of their group in Brazil, which means the Reds will slip out of the Champions League this year, determined to do better in 2016.

 

A Chilean will invade the press room

Whatever the result on Monday, Manuel Pellegrini will storm the press room, flip the buffet table and ensure a couple of temporary walls fall onto the heads of some of the journalists present, in the spirit of the 150 Chileans who invaded the press centre at the Maracana.

It’s not been announced what the mild-mannered manager is expected to do once he’s caused the carnage, with many insiders suggesting he’ll just meekly walk away, ashamed of being dragged into the surreal affair, but anything could happen in the one-man melee that may ensue.

 

Betting Instinct tip – No bookmakers are offering odds on some of these more specific predictions, but more than 3.5 goals, in keeping with the early World Cup theme, is 2.75 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Unfamiliar with decimal betting odds? Check out our odds calculation guide to find out how to translate to decimal or fractional

Greg avatar GREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to  FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football  blog and podcast. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Race for Premier League Golden Boot is wide open

Will we see a new name atop the Premier League goalscoring charts this season?

Will we see a new name atop the Premier League goalscoring charts this season?

As is often the case in the summer following a World Cup, the clubs at the top of the Premier League have been busy in the transfer market.

Last year’s top four have each made a high-profile purchase or two, while some interesting business has taken place involving clubs further down the table. And with last season’s top goalscorer Luis Suárez now plying his trade abroad (well he will be once his worldwide ban is over), the stage is set for a new name to lay claim to the Golden Boot.

 

Premier League Outright Betting Odds:

Chelsea – 37/20

Manchester City – 2/1

Manchester United – 19/4

Arsenal – 6/1

Liverpool – 9/1

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Will one of the big names top the charts in 2014/15, or will an unlikely contender rise to the top? Here are just a few in with a shot at the Golden Boot (all odds courtesy of Coral are accurate as of today and subject to change).

 

Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) – 7/2

The Argentinean forward struggled with injuries last season but still managed to score 17 goals in 23 league appearances. After heartbreak in the World Cup final, Agüero will look to reignite the partnership with Álvaro Negredo which played a huge part in Manuel Pellegrini’s side winning the Premier League last season.

 

Robin van Persie (Manchester United) – 9/2

Van Persie endured a frustrating campaign under David Moyes last season, but looked reinvigorated at the World Cup under incoming Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. With a coach who may be prepared to play to the 30-year-old’s strengths rather than marginalising him to accommodate Wayne Rooney, van Persie could be on course for a third Golden Boot in four years.

 

Diego Costa (Chelsea) – 11/2

Many believe Chelsea would have won the Premier League last season with a prolific striker, and indeed Costa’s 27 goals helped fire Atlético Madrid to an unlikely La Liga title. With Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o both departing, responsibility will lie with the Spain international to justify José Mourinho’s decision to meet the striker’s £32m release clause.

 

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) – 11/2

With Suárez moving to Barcelona, there will be more pressure than ever on the man who finished second in the goalscoring charts in the last campaign. Sturridge looked like the complete forward at times last season, but time will tell whether the exit of his strike partner and the added pressure of Champions League football will take their toll.

 

Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – 18/1

Lukaku became Everton’s record signing after completing his £28m move last night, and will look to build on the 15 goals he scored on loan at the Merseyside club last season. With fellow frontman Arouna Koné returning from injury, Belgian international Lukaku could benefit from not needing to carry goalscoring responsibility all on his own.

 

Roberto Soldado (Tottenham) – 50/1

Much was expected of Soldado when he briefly became Tottenham’s record signing last summer, but the Spaniard struggled in the league under both André Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood. The former Real Madrid youngster will hope this season has more in common with his final year in Spain with Valencia, as new coach Mauricio Pochettino looks to mount a challenge for the top four.

 

Graziano Pellè (Southampton) – 80/1

While much of the talk this summer has surrounded the players leaving Southampton, one of the new arrivals at St Mary’s could make a transitional season a whole lot easier. Italian striker Pellè scored 50 goals in the last two seasons for Feyenoord, and it is no surprise that his Eredivisie coash Ronald Koeman brought the 29-year-old with him to the south coast.

 —

This season Coral has introduced a new way to bet, SuperLive by Metric Gaming. Bet on hundreds of new in-play micro markets such as whether a player will score from the next free-kick, or whether there will be a goal within 60 seconds of the next set piece.

Unfamiliar with fractional odds? Let our odds calculation guide help you out

 

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

Germany’s Miroslav Klose chasing a second World Cup Golden Boot

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer's tournament

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer’s tournament

The sought after Golden Boot is perhaps the most prestigious and well-known of the individual awards handed out the World Cup. Current holder – Thomas Muller – will be looking to add to his 13 league goals this club season in an effort to retain the cherish Golden Boot. He won the award with a respectable but not quite emphatic 5 goal haul last time. David Villa, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan all matched the German’s tally, but Muller was awarded the prize based on having a higher number of assists (3).

Top goalscorer is always difficult to gauge at major tournaments as a player is only as strong as the whole team. The opening games have a massive impact on this too; a hat-trick in the first couple of games makes you – statistically, based on the last 6 tournaments – already at least halfway to the required number of goals to top the charts.

 

World Cup top scorer betting odds:

Lionel Messi – 8.00

Neymar – 11.00

Cristiano Ronaldo – 15.00

Sergio Aguero – 15.00

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

So, let’s look at our favourites. Unsurprisingly, Leo Messi is most people’s tip to be the top scorer this year. Last season was widely considered to be his worst in years, yet the mercurial Argentine still bagged 41 goals in all competitions. His form at international level has been questioned, but the Argentinian team itself has a desultory rhythm in terms of form. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by describing how he plays or what he is good at; it’s very much public knowledge. With 10 goals during the qualifying campaign, this could be Messi’s best chance of international glory at a personal and a team level.

Messi’s esteemed fellow countryman Sergio Aguero will also be looking to make his mark. Despite suffering a few injuries during the season, Aguero produced a host of fantastic displays in the Premier League and showed to the English audience that he has a lot more to his game than sheer goalscoring and dribbling. His vision and general awareness of teammates was pivotal in Manchester City’s re-capturing of the league title this year, whilst also showing that he can handle the more potent physical side that the Premier League offers.

 

Another player whom once famously showcased similar attributes and has yet to receive full recognition for his international work is, of course, everyone’s favourite personification of modesty – Cristiano Ronaldo! The Portuguese star was in fine form once again this year for Real Madrid, ending the season by netting a goal in their Champions League final victory against Ateltico Madrid. He even earned a round of applause from fellow shy person Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his hat-trick against Sweden sealed Portugal’s qualification into the world cup. At the ripe age of 29, CR7 won’t have his devastating pace come the next World Cup (though I dare say he will be no slouch) and will look to add to his ever growing catalogue of individual awards with a WC Golden Boot trophy. It’s unlikely that Portugal will progress to the latter stages of the tournament and with Ghana, USA and Germany in their group, they are far from promised a place out of the group stages at all. That being said, Ronaldo can change games on his own and will be looking to exploit any weakness shown by the two weaker sides (USA and Ghana respectively).

After a relatively expensive and somewhat unremarkable opening season for Barcelona, Neymar will be hoping to continue producing his scintillating displays for the Brazilian national team. The youngster has 31 goals in 49 games for his country already, which is impressive however you look at it. A lot of them are quite spectacular too. He will flourish playing in his homeland and with said host nation being frontrunners to win the tournament, it’s quite easy to deduce that Neymar is likely to score a lot of goals this tournament.

 

Quite often, it can be a bit of s surprise name as to who scores the most goals in a tournament. Particularly at international level. An erudite outside bet can prove very profitable, so let’s analyse some of the players who aren’t quite expected to produce a magnanimous amount of goals. I’ll start with Belgian giant Romelu Lukaku, who showed this season that he has an extremely well rounded set of skills, more so than most other 21 year old strikers. He bagged 15 league goals and orchestrated some fantastic performances for Everton. He is exceptionally strong, but – unlike most powerful strikers – is also very quick to move across the ground. His ability is only going to improve over the next decade, will this year be the year he announces himself amongst the best forwards in the world?

Germany’s all-time leading scorer Miroslav Klose joins us for another World Cup, no doubt eliminating some poor team’s hopes with an obligatory headed goal. Klose has been prolific at international level and is truly one of the those players that can score from any situation. His World Cup experience will be crucial to the younger German players and might well prove to be the differnce in a close match against similarly top opposition. A lot of this depends on how the team is lined up, but you can be sure that Klose will be having his say at some point.

 

For the patriotic English readers, I feel obliged to include an English player. Who better than the highest scoring English player in the Premier League last year? Daniel Sturridge has been a revelation since signing for Liverpool. He’s been prolific, consistent and has scored a lot of said goals in spectacular fashion. His curling effort against Peru a reminder as to what he can produce from outside the box. England have a tough group in the shape of Uruguay, Italy and Cost Rica; they will be relying on Sturridge’s performances to help them proceed into the knockout stages. He certainly is capable of scoring against venerable opposition, if he finds his form from the first game in then he could certainly be worth an outsider’s bet.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Romelu Lukaku to top-score offers value at 26.00 with AllYouBet.ag, while Klose (33.00) and Sturridge (51.00) could also be worth a punt

Not used to decimal betting odds? Check out Betting Instinct’s brand new odds calculation guide.

 

 JAKE COLLINS (jcollins91) is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in  London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog, or follow Jake on Twitter and Google+.

Manchester United can dent Liverpool’s title bid at Old Trafford

Daniel Sturridge scored the only goal when these teams met at Anfield in September

Daniel Sturridge scored the only goal when these teams met at Anfield in September

Everything is wrong. Not wrong in the sense that the way everything is shouldn’t be that way, but wrong in the sense that it doesn’t feel right.  Manchester United won the league last season and are a Belgian and a Spaniard stronger, yet – and look away now if you don’t want to see me get real – they won’t qualify for the Champions League. The days of Alex Ferguson must feel like a lifetime ago, especially for those born after the days of Alex Ferguson. Given that failure to attain Champions League qualification begets failure to attain Champions League qualification, the future looks grim for Manchester United fans, and everything is wrong.

Manchester United v Liverpool Betting Odds

Manchester United win – 2.40

Liverpool win – 2.85

Draw – 3.20

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Everything is also wrong because Liverpool are doing quite well, which hasn’t been the case for about five years (kind of goes back to that failure to attain Champions League qualification begets failure to attain Champions League qualification point – ed.). In fact, it was at this point in the 2008/09 season when, a few days after hitting four past Real Madrid in Europe, they met Manchester United at Old Trafford and did the same again. The omens are looking good, if you believe in that kind of thing, and I do.

Back at the beginning of this season, when the world was innocent and David Moyes looked his age, Liverpool won this fixture at Anfield, a solitary Daniel Sturridge goal the difference. Of course, we’re well and truly through the looking glass now. Manchester United are capable of the relatively routine, but then they’ll lose to Stoke. Conversely, Liverpool throw away chances against lesser opposition, yet are second in the league.

“We already know this Max!” you cry. “Get onto the hard statistical analysis, the fact-based assessment of the coming match, and the well-conceived prediction grounded in reality and probability!”

Ok, well, don’t say you didn’t ask for it. Manchester United have won eight of the last nine home league games against Liverpool, but these are two very different teams now. Robin van Persie has scored six goals in his last seven starts against Liverpool, but these are two very different teams now. There’s a pattern here, one which should demonstrate just how useless the statistics are – there will be two teams playing football, and without stretching out the word count by listing other certainties, that’s about all we know for sure.

Everything else is conjecture, but I need to help you out and tell you what I think will happen. Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge are both still around, so Liverpool will probably score. Therefore, if Manchester United want to avoid losing, then they’ll probably want to score as well, and this is where the difficulty in predicting this match lies. Nobody is really sure how good or bad this United side is – they won the league last season, which they had to be good to do, and with the addition of Mata and Fellaini it would be foolish to say that United are a bad side. On the other hand, they’re seventh, and deservedly so.

These are two clubs that inexplicably rise to this particular occasion despite respective circumstance, so you should expect a close game, or at the very least a violent one. My personal bias towards Liverpool is mitigated by an unshakeable belief that they will always lose their next game, but I think that they’ll win this time – everything may well be wrong, but there’s absolutey no reason why they shouldn’t.

Betting Instinct Tip – Either team to win by a one-goal margin is 2.30 with GR88.com

Max avatarMAX GRIEVE (maxjgri) is Australian, but keep reading. He likes football, rugby union and tennis, though has given up on his dream of being a tri-sport athlete/exciting millionaire. He supports Liverpool, and is ashamed for doing so.

West Brom Vs Liverpool – The game in tweets

wba2Yesterday afternoon, a cagey display between West Brom and Liverpool ended in a 1-1 draw. Both sides had chances, but neither side was able to capitalise on their opportunities. Betting Instinct writer Jake Collins was keeping up to date on Twitter; here are some thoughts on the game.

Spain’s Euro 2008 winning manager Luis Aragonés passed away on Saturday and Pepe Mel was showing his respects prior to kick-off

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This game was an important one at both ends of the table. Good results for a few of the sides at the bottom meant West Brom had the chance to slip into the bottom 3 on goal difference with a heavy defeat. However, a win would significantly propel them up the league. On the other hand, a win for Liverpool would give them a firmer hold on 4th place, and would move them within a point of Chelsea in third.

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Liverpool were favourites going into the game, following West Brom’s 4-3 defeat to Aston Villa. Pepe Mel had made several changes to the lineup, dropping Diego Lugano who had a particularly torrid time against Villa. Liverpool – unsurprisingly – remained unchanged after hammering Everton 4-0. Sports writer Kristian Walsh gives his opinion

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The first 10-15 minutes were relatively quiet, both teams giving the ball away easily. West Brom were trying to exploit the wide areas and whipping balls into the box. Not many chance were created with this method, but Liverpool didn’t look overly comfortable with this. Some suggested that this approach was down to a lack of confidence from The Baggies. Mulumbu was doing a real shift in closing down Gerrard at every opportunity, whereas Liverpool’s midfielders were very sloppy in possession.

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At the 24th minute, Liverpool took their first clear cut chance with aplomb. Great work from Sterling (who had an excellent game) ended up with the ball at Suarez’s feet. With 3 men around him, he managed to work himself a slight opening and crossed the ball to the obliging Sturridge from a couple of yards out. There were calls of offside from the West Brom defence, but replays showed that Sturridge was played onside…just.

Columnist Paul Tomkins describes Suarez’s movement (or lack of) to get the ball across the goal

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Things seemed to go from bad to worse for West Brom, as towering defender Olsson seemed to pull a hamstring. The aforementioned Lugano was brought on to try and continue to hold off any Liverpool attacks. Following Lugano’s display, not everyone saw this as a positive switch for WBA. Lugano did score last month against Everton, so it’s fair to say Liverpool have mixed feelings about the Uruguayan,

Olsson had been winning everything in the air against The Reds, so was sure to be a blow to their defence which – aside from the goal – had kept the lethal SAS combination out of dangerous areas.

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After the half-time break, West Brom came out looking more like a team that wanted to snatch the 3 points. They pressed well in the first half, but built on this more in the 2nd half. Several long range efforts (one from Gera, who Liverpool fans may have bad memories of) and some crosses into Liverpool’s box hadn’t posed any real threat, but West Brom were at least showing more intent now. McAuley beat Skrtel in the air to power a header at the Liverpool goal from deep within the box. Belgian keeper Mignolet produced a terrific reaction save to keep the score in his side’s favour. Injured Liverpool fullback Glen Johnson showed some appreciation for the ‘keeper

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Berahino was replaced by former Everton man Victor Anichebe, and you can probably guess what happened next. Kolo Toure played a square ball across his own box, straight to the feet of Anichebe. A sublime first touch set him up to slam a finish low into the bottom corner of Mignolet’s goal. Conceding goals has been a real issue for Liverpool this season, something they’ll need to work on if they want to retain their place in the top four by the end of the season.

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After that awful mistake from Toure, the game appeared to close up a little. Only the odd chance here and there – one in the box for Joe Allen who tamely guiding the shot straight at Ben Foster – guided the game to a slow finish. MOTM went to Raheem Sterling who produced a strong display to add to his recent fun of form. The Liverpool winger had several runs down the right-wing, beating 2-3 men at a time. Mulumbu had a strong showing for The Baggies, keeping the Liverpool midfield on their toes all game.

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Reds boss Brendan Rodgers will have to see this as two points dropped. This was a great chance to cement their Champions League spot, although no credit should be taken from West Brom who produced a resolute display against an array of attacking talent. Liverpool fans will be disappointed with their lack of spark and another defensive error. The below tweet perfectly summing up the disdain shown towards two of their defenders…

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JAKE COLLINS (jcollins91) is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog.

The closest ‘Friendly Derby’ for years

Luis Suarez (right) takes on Everton’s Sylvain Distin

On Tuesday the 28th of January, Liverpool and Everton will partake in what – on paper at least – is set to be one of the most tightly contested Merseyside Derbies in years. Liverpool currently sit uncomfortably in 4th, whilst Everton lay in 6th only one point behind their local rivals. With Spurs playing Man City on the following day, both of these sides will see this as a game of magnanimous proportions and that fire will only be fuelled by their ongoing claims to be the best team from Liverpool.

Liverpool v Everton Betting Odds

Liverpool to win – 1.75

Draw – 3.70

Everton to win – 4.20

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

The reverse fixture made for wonderful viewing to the neutral (though not to any Liverpool/Everton fans of a nervous disposition). Ending 3-3, it marked the goal-scoring return of Daniel Sturridge and the emergence of Roberto Martinez’s Everton as a free-flowing football side worthy of Liverpool’s respect.

Liverpool go into this off the back of a couple of very lacklustre performances. The goals have been flowing freely at times for The Reds this season, but so have the goals against them. Their defence has looked incredibly vulnerable and they were lucky to keep a clean sheet against Championship side Bournemouth in the FA Cup fourth round.

What I consider their strongest back 4 (Johnson, Agger, Sakho and Enrique)  is currently depleted by injury, and holding midfielders (Lucas and Allen) who offer that extra bit of protection from oncoming attacks, are also on the sidelines.

Fortunately, they have a very potent attack. Suarez and Sturridge are as good as any front two in European football and Kop fans will hope their blossoming chemistry continues to flourish. Everton are 2nd in the clean sheet league, with 9 to their name so Liverpool will have to take their chances in front of goal. Winger Raheem Sterling is in a productive run of form at present; 4 goals this season and a couple of assists in the Premiership may seem relatively modest, but it’s all too easy to forget he is the tender age of 19 . Meanwhile Steven Gerrard playing in the holding role has made him look half the player we know he is, and Everton will look to exploit this with their pace in midfield so it will be vital for Liverpool’s number 8 to have his positional sense finely tuned.

Everton have a few injury problems of their own. The loss of buccaneering fullback Seamus Coleman will be a blow to their wing-play and the energetic Barkley – who has made a huge contribution to their season – also misses this one. Barcelona youth product Gerard Deulofeu can offer something a bit different, but will also be forced to sit this one out.

Fortunately for the Toffees, top scorer Romelu Lukaku remains in the fold. Lukaku is a fantastic player already and still has 5-6 years to hit his peak as a footballer. Far too often, his immense physical strength makes people overlook the fact that he is very capable of playing precise passes, as well as decent balls into the box and exquisite finishes. They looked a little complacent in their draw with West Brom last week, but certainly won’t need any extra motivation for this one.

The formidable Anfield crowd ought to give Liverpool that slight edge, but as we saw in the reverse fixture, any lead taken will be an extremely precarious one. If Everton are able to break wide and get balls into the box, then I strongly expect them to bag a couple of goals.

Liverpool’s Cissokho is seen by some as a weak link and it’s a shame for Everton that Coleman won’t have the chance to run at him to whip the ball into the box. Still, I expect them to exploit Liverpool’s left hand side and try to feed Lukaku aerially.

The home side’s goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has shown a weakness with crosses in recent week and both Skrtel and Toure (the likely starting partnership) aren’t the most convincing in the air either. Jagielka and Distin are having possibly their best seasons for the Blues, but I think that deadly combination of Suarez’s trickery and Sturridge’s pace will undo them too many times. My prediction? Liverpool to win by a solitary goal. Genuinely, I think this game depends more on how Liverpool defend than anything else. They’ve only failed to score once in the league this year (a surprise defeat to Southampton) and I expect them to really put Everton’s back-line to the sword.

Betting Instinct Tip – Liverpool to win 2-1 is 8.00 with GR88.com

JAKE COLLINS is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog.