LIVERPOOL host Sheffield United on Thursday night. Matthew Kirby (@M_Kirby95) delivers his betting analysis.
Liverpool v Sheffield United | Thursday 2nd January 2020, 19:45 | BT Sport
A new decade begins with Liverpool top of the Premier League tree and running away with it. A 13-point lead and a game in hand should see the Reds claim their first top-flight title since the 1989/90 season.
The champions of Europe made it 50 league games unbeaten here at Anfield when seeing off Wolves in a controversial game that VAR dominated. Sadio Mane’s goal was allowed to stand and it was his 18th home goal in 19 appearances in 2019.
Sheffield United have surprised plenty with how the first half of their season has panned out. It’s left them in 8th place, but Chris Wilder will want to kick on and make sure they finish as high as possible.
They went down 2-0 against Man City to end 2019, but it was a game that could have panned out different if VAR hadn’t ruled out Lys Mousset’s effort for a marginal offside in the first half.
One man could return for the Blades is John Lundstram. He failed a fitness test, before that one and he will need to pass one to start at Anfield.
Following a similar pattern
It was a hard-fought 1-0 win for Liverpool when they visited Bramall Lane in September. Georginio Wijnaldum’s 70th-minute volley saw Dean Henderson make the Christmas Blooper DVDs, as the goalkeeper failed to keep it out.
We could see a similar pattern played out here given Liverpool ended that game with 70% possession, and it’s the Reds who average 58% of the ball this season, compared to the Blades’ 45%.
With that in mind, I’m keen to look towards Liverpool defenders in the passing markets. Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren are injured, so Joe Gomez will continue his partnership with Virgil van Dijk.
The 22-year-old has racked up impressive figures in the passing department in the four games he’s started.
Sky Bet have the minimum bar for passes completed at 80 (5/6), which looks rather enticing when he’s made 106, 92 and 86 in three of his last four league starts.
For comparison, van Dijk completed 85 passes in the reverse fixture and his last four matches have seen 85, 98, 75 and 84 passes made.
Beware if using Whoscored.com for passing stats. Their ‘total’ is attempted and not completed like the market is priced up on Sky Bet.
Klopp shuffling the pack
It’s been a hectic few weeks for Jürgen Klopp’s side following their Club World Cup triumph in Qatar and the Christmas schedule.
Naby Keita is one man that has only recently come back into the fold. His substitute appearance on Sunday took his minutes up to 197, so he is one that could well be brought back in for some fresher legs.
If he does start, then I’d be looking at the Guinea international to test Dean Henderson in the Sheffield Utd goal. When Keita has featured, he’s been involved in some intricate link-up play with the likes of Mane and Salah. He found the net in the games against Bournemouth and Salzburg. In both of those games, he registered three shots with two of them hitting the target.
Plus, he scored the opener in Liverpool’s Club World Cup semi-final win over Mexican side Monterrey, before going on to have three shots in the final against Flamengo.
Sky Bet have him at evens to have three shots in the game, which looks a fair price on the evidence, but there’s some contrast in the shots on target market. The same firm is 4/9 for one testing Henderson and 21/10 for 2+. Betfair disagrees. They go 10/11 for one and 5/1 for 2+, so it’s the latter that makes the most appeal.
In what could be a tight game with Sheffield Utd’s 3-5-2 frustrating the Reds, it’s Gomez passes to start attacks from deep and Keita shots that seem to be the most interesting angles.