By the Numbers – A Statistical Preview of Leicester v Liverpool

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On Saturday evening, it’s Leicester City vs. Liverpool: The rematch. The two sides met on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup, and the Reds did what they do best; threaten to win easily before capitulating.

Never mind that both sides put out rotated teams, the match followed a common pattern for when these two meet in the midlands. Leicester have won the last three, and have scored a brilliant goal from outside the box every time.

This is a little surprising, as Liverpool have one of the best goal differences for goals from outside the area in the Premier League when looking at the last three full seasons.

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Notice how Liverpool’s matches have seen more long range goals than any other teams? That’s probably why the odds of both teams scoring from outside the box in this one are 1/1000.

The Reds’ matches have seen so many goals from distance in part down to Philippe Coutinho, who has scored 12 goals from outside the area – take that, West Brom. Still, I’ve heard Tony Pulis treats any of his players who shoot from distance with electro-shock therapy. But I digress.

Coutinho has been trying to make amends for fluttering his eyelids at Barcelona by shooting whenever possible since he returned to the team.

In the last two matches, he’s had a total of 11 shots, with 9 of them being from outside the penalty area. He can be backed at 9/1 (was 7/1) to score from outside the box in this match, so he might be worth a flutter of your own.

But what else should you be looking at? The corner market might be worth checking out. So far in 2017/18, Leicester have blocked the most crosses and the second most shots. That sounds like a lot of potential for the ball to be deflected out of play for a corner, wouldn’t you say?

Liverpool aren’t a high crossing team (they’re ranked tenth in the division this season), but they certainly take a lot of shots (ranked second). This will be even more in evidence if Leicester have a lead to protect. Last week against Burnley was a perfect example; the Reds had a whopping 35 shots and attempted 34 crosses as they tried to force a win. The Clarets defended for their lives, and Liverpool got 12 corners as a result.

Over the last three full seasons, Liverpool have had the third most corners, and Leicester’s matches have seen the second most in total.

Believe it or not, Paddy Power offers 34 different types of corner bet for this match. What a time to be alive. As Liverpool have had 12 corners in each of their last two league visits to the King Power stadium, and in light of the stats above, I’m going to opt for Liverpool to have over seven corners, at 21/10. Kopites used to have a fanzine called ‘Another Wasted Corner’ (and that was in the 1980s, when they were good) so I wouldn’t count on them to actually score from one.

The man in the middle for this one is Anthony Taylor, and he’s not popular with Liverpool fans. Mind you, is any ref? Their opinion may improve when they learn that of the current refs with over 120 Premier League matches under the belt, he’s overseen the lowest proportion of home wins.

He’s above average when it comes to issuing cards too. It’s interesting to look at the two teams’ records per game on that front, as they’re almost identical in the top flight between 2009/10 and 2016/17.

Looking at that, the bet in the card market would appear to be ‘Exactly 30 Points’ at 10/3. And not just based on their averages in the table either; there have been 30 card points in four of the seven league and cup meetings since Leicester returned to the Premier League in 2014.

With Sadio Mane suspended for kicking someone in the head (weird, eh?) it’s hard to know who to tip for first scorer. His absence means both teams only have three players available who have scored in the league this season, and only Swansea (two) and Everton (Rooney) have fewer.

Jamie Vardy has the most league goals, with four, but two have been penalties. As the Foxes have had a spot kick in their last two matches, they are perhaps unlikely to get another. If you think otherwise, you can get 11/1 for Leicester to have a penalty and over 4.5 corners. My hunch is that they won’t though, so old man Steptoe may not be amongst the goals in this one.

Of the players from either side who are yet to score in the league this season, Islam Slimani (6/1 to be first scorer) and Riyad Mahrez (9/1) have amassed the most expected goals, so they lead the way in the ‘due a goal’ category.

For Liverpool, Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah were all rested in midweek and are all 5/1 joint-favourites to score first. The home side are unlikely to leave much space for Salah to exploit with his pace, so with Sturridge expected to start centrally, he might be the best bet here.

In terms of who wins, a lot depends on the law of averages.

In their last three matches, Liverpool have had a total of 80 shots and only allowed 20, yet their net goal score is 3-5. It’s an ugly record, and logically they should give someone a hiding soon enough.

But Leicester have a good home record under Shakespeare, losing only to Spurs and Chelsea. With the Reds low on confidence, a draw where both teams score (available at 10/3) might be where the smart money goes. Or yours. You decide.

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What do you think?