Weblog: The football punter

Home advantage key for Manchester United

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 12.30pm Saturday

The fight for second spot in the Premier League has been a close battle in recent weeks but Manchester United could land a knockout blow to arch-rivals Liverpool when the teams meet at Old Trafford.

Such is the respect for the Merseysiders from the bookmaking fraternity they are rated narrow favourites by some layers to win in Manchester but that may just be taking the Liverpool love-in too far.

Jurgen Klopp's side are the only Premier League outfit to have lowered Manchester City's colours and they will answer the bell in the Old Trafford cauldron on a run of eight Premier League wins in ten since Christmas.

They also hammered Porto in the Champions League to progress through to the quarter-finals and hold legitimate claims to be considered the second-best team in England despite sitting third, two points behind United.

Liverpool's devastating front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane can turn any match but that is built into the prices with the Reds seen as marginal favourites in some spots.

Klopp's outfit have kept only two clean sheets in 14 games against top-half opponents this season and their highest-placed shutout on the road came at 12th-placed Bournemouth.

Liverpool conceded five with ten men at City, four at Tottenham and three at Arsenal, admittedly without January signing Virgil van Dijk in defence. Meanwhile, City are the only side to have won at Old Trafford, where United have beaten Spurs and Chelsea.

Much of the price formulation comes from the expected goals statistics where United are performing poorly despite being sitting in second place.

They are scoring more goals than should be expected from their chances created according to the ratings and are conceding too few goals from the opportunities they allow.

A true reflection, on xG at least, suggests City should be on 70 points, Spurs 63, Liverpool 62, Chelsea 52 and United 50, but goalkeeper David de Gea often comes to the rescue of Jose Mourinho's men.

Can it continue? Possibly not, but De Gea is outstanding and Eric Bailly's return from injury boosts United defensively. That could well be important following their dodgy first-half show at Crystal Palace on Monday before a barnstorming comeback to win 3-2.

Not all areas of United's side are functioning perfectly, although Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku could spring to life at any moment given their talent.

And quite apart from anything else, home advantage has tended to be worth plenty in these elite Premier League games if we exclude runaway leaders City, who are almost in a league of their own.

This season has thrown up 17 matches in all competitions between teams currently in second to sixth and there have been just two away wins - by Chelsea at Wembley against Spurs and by United at Arsenal.

Manchester United draw no bet
1pt 19-20 Coral, Ladbrokes

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Match in Focus

19:30 TODAY BT2

Stuttgart v F Dusseldorf

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • A 3-0 defeat to Bayern is Stuttgart’s only loss in their last nine at home in the league
Expert verdict
Stuttgart, who finished last season with four straight wins, have struggled to get going with even World Cup-winning defender Benjamin Pavard unable to shore up a leaky rearguard. However, they can chalk up a first win of the season against Fortuna Dusseldorf, who also cannot keep a clean sheet.