Reds set for more French frustration
Liverpool head to Lille for a Europa League last 16 tie hoping to overcome a team that's lost just once in 16 home European matches.
That defeat was to a controversial Ryan Giggs goal for Liverpool's great rivals Manchester Untied four seasons ago, Les Dogues also beat the Red Devils when the sides played at the Stade de France two seasons before that game.
Liverpool are not really in the best of shape going into this crucial match having been beaten by strugglers Wigan in the Premier League on Monday night at the DW Stadium, before that they were hardly been setting the world alight either, labouring to wins rather than outplaying teams.
The Reds need a big performance at the Lille-Metropole against the free-scoring French side or their season is in real danger of just petering out; with the top four now looking out of reach again this is Liverpool's big chance to have something to shout about.
Rafa Benitez's cause will be helped because Lille are missing Ivory Coast star Gervinho, who's bagged five goals from seven games in this season's Europa League and also has 11 league strikes to his name, a massive loss for the French outfit no doubt, but their goal output certainly doesn't stop there.
Pierre-Alain Frau (6/1 first goal) will hope that if he keeps up his current goalscoring form he might be able to sneak a place in Raymond Domenech's World Cup squad, it's a slim chance but the former Lyon man has notched 13 times this season and has a habit of popping up at crucial times, the first leg winner against Fenerbahce a case in point.
Yohan Cabaye (13/2 first goal) is also often involved in Lille's goals, whether it's setting them up or hitting the back of the net himself, the French under-21 star scored a vital goal in the last group game against Slavia Prague to enable Rudi Garcia's side reach the knock-out stages and has weighed in with his fair share in Ligue 1 this season too.
Liverpool on the other hand are struggling to score goals, even with their star duo Fernando Torres (7/2 for the first goal) and Steven Gerrard (11/2) back in tandem, the Reds only have a measly six goals to show from their last six games and four of them were scored against plucky Unirea Urziceni.
Torres is obviously still a major threat but he's clearly not fully fit and really needs to find his shooting boots having looked woeful against Wigan, the Spanish international is yet to score in Europe this season either.
Another injury concern is Israeli ace Yossi Benayoun (9/1 first goal) who suffered an ankle injury in the game at the DW Stadium, Daniel Agger (25/1) could be back though after missing that match with a bug, Martin Skrtel will definitely miss out after breaking a metatarsal in his right foot in Liverpool's previous European match.
With five wins from six European home games this season Lille are a team to be taken very seriously, and odds of 2/1 on a French win could be a great bet, the draw is something that would suit Liverpool fine and that's an 11/5 shot, while the Reds have lost just one of their last ten European games on the road and as such are quoted at 11/8 to gain a first leg lead.
I think Liverpool will still be in the tie by the time it reaches Anfield on March 18, but only just, I fancy a low-scoring Lille win with 1-0 available at 11/2, and under 1.5 goals priced at 2/1.
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