At a time when all Liverpool want for Christmas is a couple of weeks off and a thorough evaluation of just what it is that’s going on, they keep getting thrown challenges that are naughty and not nice.
In between Premier League clashes with Manchester United and Arsenal comes this Capital One Cup quarter-final meeting with Championship table-toppers Bournemouth – 12 unbeaten, scoring 32 goals in that time, winning 12 of their last 15. The headlines have been written already.
And none of them are particularly nice to Brendan Rodgers, who 11 months ago was leading his side to a somewhat fortunate 2-0 FA Cup win at Dean Court. Everton were beaten 4-0 in a Merseyside derby three days later, and everything in the Northern Irishman’s garden was rosy.
Now it’s cluttered, overgrown and has weeds poking out of every corner. It isn’t just that Liverpool are playing badly, it’s that they’ve forgotten how to play well.
At least that’s the conclusion you jump to based on Sunday’s defeat at Manchester United, when the twin forces of amateurish defending and ineffective attacking combined brutally. You’re never going to beat anyone like that, let alone one of the best sides in the country.
Will they beat Bournemouth, then? You certainly wouldn’t back them to at a price of 1.95, but one thing that Eddie Howe’s impressive Championship outfit have demonstrated this season is that they do leak goals. They’ve conceded 24, which is just two less than a Rotherham United side who sit 21st in their division.
With Liverpool apparently set to pick a mobile attacking trio of Raheem Sterling, Lazar Markovic and Adam Lallana then movement around the home defence shouldn’t be a problem. Finishing off chances, however, probably will be, but at least there will be no David De Gea to get in the way this time. They should score.
For the hosts, Howe is set to pick his strongest available line-up – thereby giving several of his players a first appearance in this competition this season – and so goals look a given for them, too.
All of which makes the 2.95 for over 3.5 strikes in the game look like excellent value, with 1.76 for over 2.5 the way to go if you’re feeling more cautious.
As for who’ll actually make it through to the last four, then there is little doubt that this match means more to Liverpool and Rodgers as they bid to grasp onto anything they can to try and save their season, and possibly his job.
The Reds are 3.95 to win with both teams scoring, although that bet has to come with a health warning.
Sterling came up against a De Gea-shaped wall at the weekend, but tonight he’ll face a defence and goalkeeper who’ve conceded eight goals in their last four games – including three at home to Cardiff City at the weekend.
The England international is due a goal after goal 21 matches for club and country without one, and as his side’s premier attacking threat he looks well-priced to provide one at 2.75.
For the hosts, top scorer Callum Wilson is set for a first League Cup start of the season and could find the net at 2.95.
Bournemouth 2 Liverpool 2 at 90 mins – 13.00
Over 2.5 goals – 1.76
Raheem Sterling to score at any time – 2.75
Over 3.5 goals – 2.95