Liverpool host Stoke on Sunday afternoon (16:00) and Mark Hughes' side look value.
This match could be crucial in deciding who comes seventh this season. Liverpool would have been hoping for much more than that after three wins in a row that had lifted them back into top-four consideration but one point from their last two matches means they’ll surely need to win the Europa League to get back into Europe’s premier competition.
Given this match is sandwiched between the Reds’ two legs against Dortmund they could be forgiven for not being fully focussed here. Furthermore, with only five wins in their 14 home matches this season Anfield certainly isn’t the fortress they’d like it to be and their recent record against teams placed 4th-12th is just W1-D2-L5. They have of course shown signs of improvement in the past month but their inconsistencies continue to surface and with some rotation likely they certainly won’t find Stoke pushovers.
Stoke beat Liverpool 6-1 at the end of last season and they’re on target for a third consecutive top-half finish, while they also beat the Reds over two legs in te League Cup semi-finals in January, so they are unquestionably capable of an upset here. Their recent form is reasonable but not exceptional as they’ve lost just one of their last seven games but have only one win in their last four. The absence of Shawcross and Butland has weakened the defence and they’ve kept just one clean sheet in their last 10 matches. However, the attack has been working well and there is a chance that Shaqiri will return here having missed the past couple of games.
That combination of good attack and poor defence has resulted in 11 of the Potters’ last 14 matches having at least three goals including six of their last seven on the road. With five of Liverpool’s last six matches having at least three goals ‘overs’ and both teams to score look good bets at the same 2.05 price. Furthermore, Stoke’s record away to top-half teams since the start of last season suggests we can definitely take Liverpool on here. They’ve lost just eight of their 17 such matches while winning four times and their record away to the sides that finished 5th-10th last term and sides that occupy those spots this is an even better W2-D3-L3. You can cover Liverpool winning by one and back Stoke +1 on the Asian Handicap at 1.85 but we’ll take the 2.5 on a Stoke-Draw Double Chance with every chance the Potters punish a distracted Liverpool.
For a longer shot, it’s worth considering that Liverpool have played five more games than Stoke since the start of February and while six of Liverpool’s nine defeats this season have been either Draw/Loss (5) or Win/Loss (1) Half-Time/Full-Time results the Potters have won the second half in five of their last seven matches and Draw/Stoke is a juicy 13.0.
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