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Rupert Wyman 28th Dec 2009 - 13:56

Double trouble for Benitez and Liverpool

Rafael Benitez has guaranteed that Liverpool will finish in the top four but a defeat at Villa Park against Aston Villa will severely dent the Reds' chances of finishing in the Champions League places.

Villa won 3-1 at Anfield earlier on in the season and are 17/10 to pick up another three points on Tuesday night to claim the double over Benitez's side this season, their first over the Reds since 1992/93 campaign.

When Villa triumphed in August Liverpool were playing better than they are now and Villa have been playing much better than they were back then. Therefore the 17/10 looks a good price especially as Liverpool have been victorious just once on the road in their past six matches.

The Reds were even beaten by struggling Portsmouth so they can hardly be full of confidence as they head to the West Midlands to take on a fellow top four contender. As a result I would not be tempted about the 13/8 on an away win, as big as it may first appear.

For those wanting a bit more security than just backing Martin O'Neill's side for the win then draw no bet can be backed at evens and a double chance of a Villa win or a draw is 8/15.

The double chance is particularly good value and should be snapped up.

Some people may be put off siding with Villa after their relative poor performance at the Emirates on Sunday against Arsenal, but I believe that was just a blip rather than the start of a poor run.

Villa will be without the services of star winger Ashley Young on Tuesday as he is suspended after picking up his fifth booking of the season for a dive against Arsenal. The former Watford man will be a miss as he has contributed five assists and three goals to the cause this term.

Nevertheless O'Neill has James Milner and Stewart Downing who he can deploy on the wings with Steven Sidwell the most likely man to come into central midfield with Milner moving out wide.

If Sidwell does start then he is a good value punt at 11/2 to get on the scoresheet.

In other team news former Liverpool frontman Emile Heskey could be absent as well as he is an injury doubt but John Carew would seamlessly step in for him.

For the visitors Javier Mascherano is still suspended which will probably mean that Alberto Aquilani will start his second match in just three days, plus Dirk Kuyt should return after being rested on Boxing Day.

If Liverpool though are to take anything away from Villa Park it will rest on the shoulders of Fernando Torres and captain Steven Gerrard yet again.

They are 6/5 and 6/4 respectively to score at anytime and the odds on the Liverpool captain could appeal when you consider that he has scored nine Premier League goals against Aston Villa - more than against any other opponent.

Despite the efforts of Liverpool's star duo though I expect it to another troublesome day at the office for Benitez and Villa should be able to at the very least get a draw, but they might just be able to sneak the win and seal the double over the Reds.



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