Weblog: The football punter

Hungry Wolves may put dent in Reds' title hopes

Premier League
Sky Sports Football & Main Event, 8pm Friday

Liverpool are one win away from sealing the Christmas number-one spot but they may fluff their lines against mid-table Wolves at Molineux.

Jurgen Klopp's side stretched their winning sequence to five with a well-deserved 3-1 victory over Manchester United last Sunday and are long odds-on to follow up with a victory in the Black Country.

With the halfway point of the season approaching everything looks possible for Liverpool, who are second-favourites in the title betting and 10-1 fifth-favourites to win the Champions League.

But the markets may not be affording sufficient respect to Wolves, who would climb into the top six if they pulled off a shock victory.

As a newly-promoted side, Wolves carry less mental baggage than some of their top-flight rivals and they have thoroughly enjoyed taking on the division's big guns.

Nuno Espirito Santo's side have won one, drawn three and lost one of their matches against the big six and have not been flattered by those results.

Tactically, Wolves often set up to defend deep and hit teams on the counter-attack.

It has worked a treat in big games, including the notable 1-1 draw at home to Manchester City in August which was a fair result on the balance of play.

They are one of just three teams to take points off City this season and may look at that late-summer performance as an ideal template for success against the Reds.

Liverpool should be feeling confident after last weekend's victory over United which generated a shot count of 36-6 in their favour.

But United were dreadful, as they have been on numerous occasions this season, and it is probable that the contest with Wolves will be a more balanced affair.

Liverpool have won seven of nine away games but only one of those (a 2-1 success over Tottenham at Wembley) was against a team inside the top nine.

With the game being on a Friday, five days before their next fixture at home to Newcastle, there is nothing to stop Klopp selecting a full-strength side.

But the same logic applies to Wolves, whose strength has been largely based on keeping a settled shape and making minimal changes.

Nuno will have to make at least one change with Jota (hamstring) missing out and Helder Costa set to come in.

Costa recently lost his place to exciting youngster Morgan Gibbs-White but has featured in every league game this season and his pace gives the home side a handy outlet.

Liverpool will have to be mindful of Wolves' threat on the counter-attack and the match may settle down into a tactical affair with both teams affording each other plenty of respect.

A low-scoring outcome looks likely, increasing the chances of a draw which looks the best-value wager.


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