LIVERPOOL’S on-field preparation for Thursday’s Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid couldn’t have gone better.
Rafa Benitez’s men barely broke sweat in a routine 3-0 win over a lacklustre West Ham side on Monday.
By contrast, things are running a lot less smoothly off the pitch, with the volcanic ash cloud hampering travel plans and forcing the squad to make two train journeys before catching a flight to the Spanish capital from Bordeaux.
A stopover in Paris should lessen the impact of the Reds’ convoluted journey and Betfred’s 13/8 tournament favourites are 11/5 (Victor Chandler) to put their travel woes behind and rack up a first leg lead.
However, they will have to do without Fernando Torres, who will be disappointed to miss out on a return to his former club, and that will seriously limit their firepower.
Subsequently, a stalemate, at 23/10 courtesy of Betdaq, may be a more realistic aim for Benitez’s charges considering they are away from home, although Atletico’s poor domestic form suggests that Liverpool should eventually book their place in the final over the course of the two matches (4/7, Stan James).
An away goal, rated by Partybets at 2/5, would aid their cause significantly and if they were to hold the hosts to a 1-1 draw (6/1, 888Sport) then they would certainly be in the qualification box seat.
In the absence of Torres they will look to the likes of David Ngog in attack and the young striker is 7/1 with Ladbrokes to break the deadlock, although Yossi Benayoun may represent better value in the first score betting at 11/1 (Totesport) while Paddy Power’s 7/2 for the Israeli schemer to find the net also catches the eye.
Fulham head to Hamburg aiming to keep hopes of an all-English final alive but they’re William Hill’s 6/4 outsiders to get through and are also quoted at 9/2 by Jaxx.com to come out on top in Germany.
At 4/6 (bet365) it’s the hosts that should prevail in the HSH Nordbank Arena but Roy Hodgson’s men should be able to restrict the Bundesliga outfit to a one-goal winning margin (11/4, Ladbrokes) so that they should at least remain in with a shout ahead of next week’s second leg at Craven Cottage.
Domestically, Liverpool need a miracle to qualify for the Champions League but they should at least stay in the hunt on Sunday by landing three points at Burnley – a result rated by Paddy Power at 8/13.
Everton meanwhile, also look a banker for a maximum haul. They’re 4/9 (Victor Chandler) to get the better of a Fulham side who are likely to have their minds of Europe.
Odd supplied by www.betrescue.com