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Jon Riley 17th Dec 2010 - 15:51

Hodgson needs a Spark to get Liverpool going

Liverpool v Fulham - Saturday 17:30

Roy Hodgson faces former employers Fulham for the first time since swapping West London for Merseyside in the summer.

The 63-year-old enjoyed possibly his greatest stint in club management at Craven Cottage overseeing the transformation of a club from relegation certainties to Europa League finalists, in little over 18 months.

Only an extra-time goal from the inspired Diego Forlan prevented Hodgson and his Fulham team from going on to lift their first ever piece of European silverware. Ironically it was Forlan who also ended Liverpool's European campaign with a finish at the Kop end in the semi-finals.

History would point to this game being a home banker as Fulham have yet to beat Liverpool at Anfield in 29 attempts. Their barren run is not just confined to one side of Stanley Park though. The Cottagers' have never won a Premier League game at either Liverpool or Everton. They have lost 14 matches on Merseyside, drawing four times.

The match betting reflects these facts accordingly. Liverpool are priced at 8/15 to earn the home win while the visitors can be backed at 6/1.

Roy Hodgson's record at Anfield as Fulham manager was more encouraging. His last two visits saw two draws (11/4), both by a 0-0 scoreline (17/2 Correct Score).

Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres are due to return for the Reds for this match, Gerrard recovering from a hamstring problem while El Nino was rested in midweek for the Europa League dead rubber against Utrecht.

Gerrard, the talismanic midfielder and captain, was injured while on international duty for England in November, but could give his side a huge lift by making the starting line-up. The scouse star is a huge inspiration for his fellow players and fans alike and is priced at 5/1 to open the scoring and 5/4 to mark his return with a goal at anytime.

Torres was left on the bench in midweek, disappointing many of the 38,000 Liverpool fans packed into Anfield. Hodgson will point to this game and say that three points in the Premier League is far more important than Wednesday's meaningless tie. The manager's decision could well prove a wise one if Torres goes on to score, he is 5/2 to break the deadlock and 4/7 to notch anytime.

Mark Hughes was the man chosen by Mohamed Al Fayed to replace Hodgson and so far he hasn't pulled up any trees at the Cottage. The Whites have won only one of their previous 13 league games and sit perilously close to the relegation spaces, separated from the bottom three only by goal difference.

Hughes isn't under the same pressure as Hodgson though with Al Fayed understanding that Hughes has been without striker Bobby Zamora all season. Sparky will be hoping though to improve on his record as a manager against the Reds. Hughes has won only one of 11 league games against Liverpool as a manager. His one success was Blackburn's 1-0 win against the Reds on Boxing Day 2006.

Spearheading the attack for his Fulham side should be Diomansy Kamara and Clint Dempsey. Dempsey is normally used as an attacking midfielder but his forward link up play and aerial prowess have meant he's had to adapt his game in Bobby Zamora's absence. He has five league goals this campaign, more than Fernando Torres, and will be hoping to get his name on the score sheet once again. The American is priced at 9/1 to be the first scorer and 10/3 anytime.

The same odds apply to the Senegal striker Diomansy Kamara but the same cannot be said of his goal threat. Kamara has all the attributes to be a great forward but he lacks the clinical instinct in front of goal and has only found the net twice this season. Hughes seems to have lost patience with Kamara and has been linked with a January move for Aston Villa's John Carew.

William Hill's Match Winner offer for this game revolves around Liverpool and their recent upturn in form at Anfield. In their last two home games they've scored exactly three goals so guess what....we're offering a price of 7/1 that they will score exactly three goals once again against Fulham.

My thoughts for this game are that Liverpool should have too much for Fulham. However, after a poor performance away at Newcastle last week, confidence won't be sky high for the Reds players either.
I'm going to plump for a 2-1 Liverpool win at 15/2 on the correct score market.



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