Rafa Benitez is hoping to make a triumphant return to Anfield Stadium but at the managerial helm of the Blues, a side that has enjoyed a soap opera season and who doubters deem somewhat inconsistent and erratic of late to be backed with any confidence. So will he accomplish the feat or will he be sent packing from Anfield yet again. Here is a breakdown of this highly-anticipated matchup complete with our free soccer picks for your consideration.
6/5 vs. Chelsea 11/5
Since Rafa Benitez inherited the reins (in November 2012) he’s been “impressive” at the helm: the Blues were within four dizzying points of the league’s pinnacle. They’re now 20-points off pace. He’s also overseen 14 wins in 28 games in 2013 and his side’s away form has gone from bad to worse.
Sure, Chelsea’s schedule of late has been rather insane; they’ve played 13 fixtures in six weeks – four Europa League matches, four FA Cup ties and five league matches. And it’s obvious this is having an effect on the team and on Benitez’ decision making, insisting he has to rotate his men and field different looking teams to give star players a much-needed reprieve. But while his theory smacks of reasonable judgement, the risk he runs with inconsistent selections is inconsistent results.
Unfortunately, for Benitez the schedule shows no sign of relenting anytime soon as their next league commitment looms ahead on Sunday, three days after their midweek clash with Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Speaking of the Fulham affair, Chelsea’s short West London trek was a successful one. David Luiz opened the scoring with a 35-yard shot into the top corner and Captain John Terry scored twice to lift Chelsea to a 3-0 victory over Fulham and to third place in the premier league standings, a point ahead of Arsenal with a game in hand.
The win couldn’t have come at a better time had Benitez scripted the match himself. Chelsea was after back-to-back defeats – a 3-2 defeat to Rubin Kazan in Europa League and a 2-1 defeat to Man City in FA Cup action – that soccer bettors were dithering on backing Chelsea at odds-on against Fulham, spotting this match as a potential banana peel for Chelsea...swoosh!
Crisis averted. Well, for now, at least, because although Chelsea currently sits in pole position for the third automatic Champions League qualifying spot with six games remaining, during that stretch they have some stiff opposition to overcome, including Man U, Spurs and Everton and Sunday’s trip to Liverpool.
Liverpool is tipped as the soccer odds favorite at 6/5 at William Hill to thwart the Blues (11/5) at Anfield Stadium. Liverpool, who is seventh in the league standings with a modest 13-11-9 record (8-4-4 at home), is vying for a Europa League berth and so they have a stake in the win here that goes beyond just showing up Rafa at Anfield.
Recently, they have experienced a slight dip in form. They are after back-to-back, scoreless draws against West Ham United and Reading. They are 5-2-1 in their last eight games overall and 6-1-1 in their last eight home games. The last time Liverpool met Chelsea was at Stamford Bridge in November when they settled on a 1-1 draw.
Soccer Betting Verdict: Weighing in on this match poses one major problem: predicting what team Benitez will field and, by that same token, what Chelsea is going to turn up is a mystery – the one that beat Man U in FA Cup or the one that succumbed weakly to Southampton at St. Mary’s. If the former shows up, backing Chelsea to the win is tempting. If the latter shows up, however, backing Liverpool with home advantage would make more sense. In fact, in the last seven meetings between these two teams, spanning several competitions, Liverpool has the distinct advantage with a 5-1-1 record.
Soccer Free Picks: Liverpool at 6/5 at William Hill to win 2-0
For more Premier League betting options, check out our: