NUMBER-CRUNCHER Daniel McCulloch (@danmcc84) analyses Friday night's FA Cup contest between Merseyside rivals Liverpool and Everton.
Liverpool v Everton | Friday 5th January 2018, 19:55 | BBC
Given the abuse that Jurgen Klopp received for leaving Sadio Mane and Phillipe Coutinho on the bench for the Merseyside derby three weeks ago, I think it is quite unlikely that he will make wholesale changes for this game, especially when they do not have another game for nine days.
Liverpool will be without Coutinho, once again, this time through injury and also Mohammad Salah, who has arguably been the signing of the summer and has been involved in 44% of their league goals so far this term.
Any side in the world would miss this pair and Liverpool’s attack looks far less potent without them. That said, I still think they will have too much for an Everton side who have flattered to deceive under Sam Allardyce.
Toffees flattering to deceive
Prior to Christmas, I thought I had uncovered the gem of the season when I opposed Chelsea at around 4/6 to win at Goodison a few days beforehand. To my amazement, their price did not drift and whilst I did end up with a winning bet, I was extremely fortunate.
Chelsea had 25 shots that day (eight on-target) whilst the Toffees failed to muster a single effort on-target. Since then they have claimed another fortunate draw away at West Brom before succumbing to both Bournemouth and Manchester United whilst managing just one shot on-target across the two matches.
Ironically, the defeat against Manchester United was probably their best performance of the Christmas period and the margin of victory certainly flattered Jose Mourinho’s men. Two superb strikes from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard saw them emerge victorious.
And whilst their defence has been very busy over the festive period – they faced 81 shots across the four games – the majority of these have come from distance and with Liverpool missing some key attacking threats, I struggle to see a hatful of goals.
Oppose goals at Anfield
The game at Anfield saw just five shots on-target (including a penalty) and whilst Liverpool’s games have tended to feature a lot of goals, without the aforementioned Salah and Coutinho I don’t see that same attacking threat.
Six of Sam Allardyce’s eight league matches have featured two goals or fewer and I struggle to see Everton scoring regardless of how hospitable their rivals’ defence has been this season.
Taking all this into account, there are two bets I fancy; Liverpool to win and Under 2.5 Goals (5/2 with Bet365) and the same outcome but Under 3.5 Goals, which is available at 11/10 with BetVictor. I will probably be using the Exchange nearer kick-off to dutch the 1-0 and 2-0 scorelines but at the time of writing I believe this is the correct play.