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Nic Ladds 14th Dec 2010 - 16:37

Can Liverpool move into the last 32 in style?

Liverpool have already qualified from Group K and top spot is in the bag. They face a Utrecht side bottom of the group and who cannot qualify for the last 32 due to their poor head-to-head records.

Liverpool (2/5) looked like they had finally started to turn their season around when they went on a six-match unbeaten run in early November. Since then, their inconsistency has crept back in and they have just two wins in six matches.

At ninth in the league table, the pressure is really on Roy Hodgson to deliver in Europe this season as domestic success looks more out of his reach every week.

If they were batting for qualification and on top form in the league, I would really fancy them to smash this pretty average Utrecht side by a big margin. With nothing at stake, the scoreline might be slightly more respectable.

I still think they have more than enough to win but with qualification already sealed and a big match at home to Hodgson's old club Fulham on Saturday, some big names might be rested and the players could be focusing on the match at the weekend.

The quality is still there for Liverpool beat them by a couple of goals which makes the -1 handicap a solid prospect at 11/10.

Liverpool are expected to be without their European goal machine David N'Gog in this match though, the striker suffered a nasty cut in Saturday's defeat to Newcastle and he is likely to be rested.

Out of Liverpool's 14 European goals this season, N'Gog has hit five and Steven Gerrard has smashed in four. As the England midfielder is also expected to sit out of this match - goals will have to come from some new faces.

Fernando Torres is the obvious choice, his record at Anfield is world-class and the Spanish striker is 3/1 to score first. The hat-trick price at 16/1 is available for the more adventurous among you!

Ryan Babel was impressive in Liverpool's last home match against Aston Villa in the league. He bagged himself a good goal in the absence of big name strikers and is a decent bet to score first at 8/1 although I do prefer the 11/4 anytime.

Utrecht (15/2) did manage a 0-0 stalemate (11/1 here) with Liverpool when these sides met in Holland and without some big names in Liverpool's ranks they could be hoping for a similar outcome in this match.

Ricky van Wolfswinkel is their main target man up front with 11 goals in 18 matches this season. If you fancy a Utrecht player to get on the scoresheet in this match, it will most likely be this man and he can be backed at 8/1 to score first or 11/4 anytime.

The Liverpool owners have decided to half the price of tickets for this match so there should be a big crowd cheering on the Merseysiders despite the fact they have already qualified. With nothing at stake for either club - Liverpool's quality should prevail in the long run.



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