Anfield clash of the titans set to be a close affair

 
Bill Esdaile
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BEN CLEMINSON AND BILL ESDAILE PREVIEW THE BEST OF THE WEEKEND’S FOOTBALL AND RACING

NOT many people gave Liverpool a hope of winning the Premier League this year. Indeed some bookmakers were offering 33/1 before the season kicked off.

Yet, you won’t get bigger than 15/8 now on the Reds securing a first title since 1990 ahead of Sunday’s crunch clash against Manchester City at Anfield.

Brendan Rodgers’ side have smashed goals in left, right and centre with an electric brand of attacking football that seems to be based on the gung-ho philosophy of scoring more than whatever the opposition manage.

They have hit 90 league strikes so far, the fourth highest total ever in a Premier League season – and they still have five games left to beat Chelsea’s landmark of 103.

The deadly duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have chipped in with 49 and they will again be the main threat.

Crucially, City have two games in hand as they bid to regain the crown they won two years ago. A four-point gap to Liverpool will almost be wiped out should Manuel Pellegrini mastermind an away win.

But his club have won just one of their last 16 trips to the red half of Merseyside, losing 10, and Liverpool boast a phenomenal record at home against top-seven sides this campaign.

They have won all four home clashes, with City and then Chelsea to come, scoring 14 goals in the process and conceding just one. The hosts have also won their last nine games and the Kop will ensure an incredible atmosphere, sensing the league glory that has eluded them for so long.

The visitors are the second-highest scorers in the league, after Liverpool, but significantly they have a far better defence than their weekend rivals. City have the second best defensive record behind Chelsea, and will arrive having kept six clean sheets from their last seven games, the only blip coming in a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Arsenal.

If Vincent Kompany can marshal his defence to blunt Liverpool’s early onslaught then I can see them frustrating BetBright’s 13/10 favourites. Selling total goals at 3.2 with Sporting Index might be the way to go, knowing we could cash out for a profit during the game if it’s cagey.

BetBright are offering a brilliant offer in which they will give new account holders who deposit at least £10 before the game £100 if Liverpool win 2-1. Considering the reverse fixture finished 2-1 to the home team this could well happen.

I’ve found this a nightmare game to call in terms of an outright prediction. Analysts 21st Club have run through their extensive statistical data and have given City a win percentage chance of 37 per cent, which works out marginally better than the 19/10 BetBright odds suggest.

That means they might be the value but, as 21st Club’s clever Costly Injuries tool shows, City have just 78 per cent of their total squad value fit, whereas Liverpool have nearly 90 per cent of their squad available.

A lot will depend on whether injury doubts Sergio Aguero and David Silva start and, with that uncertainty in mind, I am happy to chance Liverpool at the prices.

■ Pointers…
Liverpool at 13/10 with BetBright
Sell total goals at 3.2 with Sporting Index