Rafa looks deflated but 'Pool can still have a ball

<strong>LIVERPOOL </strong>vs<strong> MANCHESTER UNITED</strong><br />SUNDAY 2.00PM, SKY SPORTS 1<br /><br />MANY pundits thought this was finally Liverpool&rsquo;s year, but things have not started well and Rafa Benitez&rsquo;s side &ndash; with no thanks to the infamous beachball goal at Sunderland last Saturday&ndash; have now lost four games in a row, their worst run in 22 years. Their play has been poor and there were groans in the Anfield crowd when Steven Gerrard limped off against Lyon on Tuesday night. <br /><br />It&rsquo;s not only Liverpool who have struggled though &ndash; Chelsea and Arsenal have both lost twice, Man United were beaten at Burnley, very lucky to get a point against Sunderland and weren&rsquo;t convincing against Bolton last weekend. United do, though, have a good recent record at Anfield, winning five of their last seven trips, but they were beaten in both fixtures against Liverpool last season.<br /><br />I can&rsquo;t argue that Liverpool have generally been disappointing so far, but time and time again we&rsquo;ve seen how Big Four teams with their backs against the wall come up with the goods against their key rivals. Just think back to Arsenal away at Chelsea last season and at home against Man United. In addition, the Merseysiders were also undefeated against the Big Four last campaign, doing the double over both United and Chelsea.<br /><br />Benitez&rsquo;s side would have been slight favourites for this game if they had comfortably beaten Lyon on Tuesday, but that performance, coupled with fitness doubts over Torres, Gerrard and Johnson, has seen Boylesports push out the home win to 15/8 &ndash; too big in my book. OK, so United have only dropped five points from a possible 27 so far, but it is their recent record against the best sides which is alarming. They have won just one of their last seven away games and have lost three of their last four.<br /><br />Another bet which is interesting is the 5/6 Hills offer about both teams to score. Liverpool&rsquo;s 2-1 win here against their arch rivals last season forms part of a recent trend which has seen each team scoring in 76 per cent of the last 29 Big Four contests across all competitions since March 2008. This has also been the case in seven of Liverpool&rsquo;s last nine home games against the Big Four and in six of United&rsquo;s last seven at Stamford Bridge, the Emirates and Anfield.<br /><br /><strong>POINTERS...</strong><br />Liverpool to win at 15/8 with Boylesports<br />Both teams to score at 5/6 with Hills<br />Buy total match goals at 2.6 with Sporting Index<br /><br /><strong>WOLVES </strong>vs<strong> ASTON VILLA</strong><br />SATURDAY 12.45PM, SKY SPORTS 1<br /><br />LAST weekend&rsquo;s win against Chelsea will have given everyone at Villa Park a huge amount of confidence and they are now two from two against the Big Four this season. Martin O&rsquo;Neill is proving once again what a quality manager he is &ndash; after some ridiculous criticism &ndash; and a comfortable win at Wolves could see his side in third place tomorrow lunchtime.<br /><br />Wolves were always going to have a massive task on their hands to avoid relegation and I&rsquo;m very tempted to back them at 6/4 on Betdaq to go down. Home form is always the key for promoted sides, as we saw with Stoke last season and Burnley this time around. Mick McCarthy&rsquo;s side managed to beat Fulham at home, but they&rsquo;ve only taken a point from the three games they&rsquo;ve played at Molineux against the current bottom-three sides &ndash; Hull, West Ham and Portsmouth.<br /><br />This is their first real test in front of their own fans and the Wolverhampton faithful will be mightily concerned that Villa have won all of their last five away West Midlands derbies. They will also struggle to forget the last time they faced the claret and blues here &ndash; a crushing 4-0 defeat in 2003/04. Villa have actually played nine local derbies in the past four seasons (Birmingham and West Brom), winning eight and drawing the other.<br /><br />Not just have Martin O&rsquo;Neill&rsquo;s charges been excellent this season against the big boys, their recent record against promoted sides is also very strong, winning five and losing just one of their last seven trips to such outfits since 2007/08. My confidence in an away win is bolstered even further by Wolves&rsquo; poor record against the better sides in the Championship. Since McCarthy was appointed in 2006/07, his side have won a measly two from 17 (W2-D4-L11) against top-six opposition.<br /><br /><strong>POINTERS...</strong><br />Aston Villa to win at 5/4 on Betdaq<br />Buy Aston Villa supremacy at 0.5 with Sporting Index<br />Wolves to be relegated at 6/4 on Betdaq