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With Man City and Spurs not playing this weekend, Liverpool can reclaim fouth spot at Wigan tonight. William Hill‘s Michael Taylor previews
Nothing beats the atmosphere of a big night match with the floodlights beating down and a full house and TV cameras inspiring both sides to play their best football, unfortunately I doubt Liverpool’s trip to Wigan will fall into the classic category.
All season long the sporting press has been riddled with stories of Liverpool’s demise however this Monday evening we could be handed the clearest marker yet of how far they’ve fallen behind their Big Four rivals.
Manchester United are preparing for AC Milan’s trip to Old Trafford; Arsenal have their gaze firmly focused on overturning a first-leg deficit to Porto; Liverpool will be giving their all to find a goalscoring touch against the relegation threatened Latics.
The Reds may be valiantly plugging away in their bid for the final Championship League spot but they’re hardly doing it in the most entertaining of ways scoring just five goals in their last six Premier League games – one of which was an own goal.
So when Rafael Benitez comes out and criticises Blackburn’s style of play after last week’s game you can’t help but think of the words ‘pot kettle black’.
The stranger aspect of Rafa’s post match interview though had to be his decision to deflect the attention away from the reunification of his star duo Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, favouring instead sarcasm towards Sam Allardyce’s low budget team.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognise Liverpool needs Torres like a baby needs nappies, without each other you just end up with one hell of a messy outfit.
In my opinion, other than Torres no Reds player has the ability to thrive off Gerrard’s passing ability and, as such, their talisman has been close to redundant for the majority of the season.
Dirk Kuyt has worked wonders in finding the net on a regular basis given he also covers every single blade of grass while David N’Gog’s not shown anywhere near enough to show he has a big future on Merseyside.
Elsewhere, Ryan Babel continues to disappoint, Yossi Benayoun is too hit and miss to be a mainstay in the team and I’m not sure Maxi Rodriguez is quite ready to set the Premier League alight, although I hope the classy Argentine proves me wrong over the coming weeks.
All this goes to say that it’s blatantly obvious why Liverpool are struggling for goals and if they want the win at Wigan they desperately need their star attacking men to step up to the plate.
As for Wigan they’ll be aiming to do exactly what Wolves, Portsmouth, Blackburn and Sunderland have already achieved this season and keep Benitez’s men from scoring away from Anfield.
If Roberto Martinez’s men have one strength it’s keeping non-Harry Redknapp run teams at bay.
The Latics struggle for goals but in Chris Kirkland, Titus Bramble and Gary Caldwell they have the makings of a strong defensive spine that should limit Gerrard’s chances of threading though-balls right though the heart of the defence.
Maynor Figueroa garnished instant recognition with his goal of the season contender earlier this season but he’s more than a one hit wonder, constantly turning in impressive shifts from left back while Mario Melchiot’s experience cannot be underestimated.
Unfortunately though a lack of attacking options is putting them under great pressure at the wrong end of the league and three goals in their last seven matches is simply not going to cut it, especially against Liverpool’s excellently organised defence.
Hugo Rodallega has gone cold after an encouraging start to the season while Jason Scotland has failed to make the step-up from the Championship – it makes it impossible to see how they’ll be able to challenge Pepe Reina (you can get 4/5 about Wigan failing to score).
If either team scores then you have to believe it’ll be Liverpool but it takes a brave man to back them at 8/13 to win the game.
However I think I’d be far more tempted to look at the correct score market with a 1-0 Reds win looking fairly reasonable at 4/1.
My bet of choice though has to be the 0-0 draw priced at 17/2 in a fixture that screams to me goal-less draw and bring on the excitement of the Champions League.