MARK O’HAIRE’S (@MarkOHaire) unimpressed by the skinny odds on offer for Liverpool on Thursday night in the Europa League.
Liverpool v Augsburg | Thursday 18.00 | BT Sport Europe
Liverpool face a decisive 72 hours in their season, starting on Thursday night.
The Reds welcome Augsburg to Anfield with their Europa League last-32 encounter locked at 0-0 before switching their focus to Wembley on Sunday for the final of the Capital One Cup. Fail both tests and the Merseysiders 2015/16 season won’t live long in the memory.
Jurgen Klopp’s already admitted that winning the Europa League is Liverpool’s only opportunity to clinch Champions League qualification next season so we must assume he’ll be committed to sending out a strong XI for the first of the two decisive battles.
The German boss fielded the attacking trio of Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho together in Germany and although the Reds were silenced by their Bundesliga hosts, Liverpool were the better side, firing in six shots-on-target compared to the Fuggerstädter’s two.
Profligate finishing has proven Liverpool’s undoing on numerous occasions this season and the Merseysiders’ tally of six goals from seven Europa League ties this term really showcases how poor the Reds have been in front of goal.
So if Klopp does decide to go all-out on Thursday night despite the distraction of silverware on Sunday, would you be happy to take advantage of 4/9 quotes on the home side here? I certainly wouldn’t.
Sure, Liverpool have returned a rather impressive W12-D6-L1 in their most recent 19 Europa League outings at Anfield but since 2013 that record reads W4-D6-L1 with Zenit St Petersburg the only side to suffer a defeat by more than the odd goal, and that came two years ago.
The hosts have played 14 fixtures this calendar year and their W4-D7-L3 results have included victories against Exeter, Aston Villa, Stoke and Norwich whilst across all competitions, Liverpool’s home results since mid-August (W6-D10-L3) have hardly set the world alight.
I adore Klopp and have wished him well ever since his days transforming Mainz from also-rans into one of the ‘best of the rest’ in the Bundesliga. But the pre-match odds on offer are bordering on disrespect to Augsburg – 10/11 (Matchbook) for the Fuggerstädter with a +1.25 Asian Handicap start? All over it.
Markus Weinzierl's men have endured a rollercoaster ride in 2015/16. Having started their season with just W1-D3-L8 from their first 12 league fixtures, Augsburg found themselves bottom of the Bundesliga in November. But FCA have fought back valiantly (W5-D3-L2) to leap up to 13th.
The Fuggerstädter’s road record is promising too – they’ve won at both Partizan Belgrade and AZ Alkmaar in this competition, secured W’s in four of their last six away days in domestic action and kept five clean sheets in those six outings. Further back, they’ve claimed top honours in seven of their last 10 on their travels.
FCA are far from adventurous and will aim to keep things tight thanks to their highly-organised and defensively sound foundations. It’s helped Weinzierl’s men to five clean sheets in seven but they must overcome the likely loss of forward Raul Bobadilla– only Aritz Aduriz has scored more Europa League goals this season – and the visitors have fired blanks in four of their last eight games.
However, Alfred Finnbogason is a capable replacement and Augsburg have found the back of the net in all but one of their 15 fixtures as guests, meaning a deadly away goal on the counter-attack isn’t beyond them.
With the +1.25 Asian Handicap selection, we’ll make money should Augsburg avoid defeat by a two-goal margin or larger. A half-stakes profit is made should the match end in a one-goal Liverpool win with a full-stakes profit ensured if the Reds fail to oblige at ridiculously short odds.
Bayern Munich and Dortmund are the only clubs to win by a margin of two goals or more against FCA since October so I’ll happily have a decent slice of that Asian Handicap pie whilst also having a nibble on Under 2.5 Goals at 10/9 with Marathon.
Fewer than three goals have been seen in 10 of Augsburg’s 22 Bundesliga as well as eight of their most recent 12 in all competitions. Meanwhile, six of Liverpool’s seven Europa League ties plus eight of their 14 Anfield matches under Klopp have also fallen below the 2.5 goals line.
Liverpool v Augsburg – Augsburg +1.25 Asian Handicap (10/11 Matchbook)
Liverpool v Augsburg – Under 2.5 Goals (10/9 Marathon)
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