Liverpool’s trip to Aston Villa on Tuesday 19:45 has been one of the most talked about League Cup games apart from the final in years.
Much has been made of the Reds’ predicament, which has forced them to send one squad to Birmingham under the care of Neil Critchley and an entirely different squad to the Club World Cup in Qatar just 24 hours later.
With Jurgen Klopp prioritising the Club World Cup duties, there is little hope that Liverpool will prevail in Villa Park.
The Reds will field an even weaker side than the youthful team that leaked five goals against Arsenal in the last round and it would be one of the biggest shocks of the season if they can book their place in the League Cup semi-final.
Consequently, Aston Villa are also likely to field a weakened XI on Tuesday night, although not nearly to the same extent as their opponents.
Firstly, it would frankly look somewhat embarrassing if a Premier League club fielded their best team against what is essentially a third, or even fourth string, Liverpool team.
Secondly, and far more importantly, the League Cup is a distraction that Villa could do without.
The Villans have failed to win their last four league games and have slipped dangerously close to the bottom three as a result. With two games coming up over the next week against Southampton and Norwich – two sides currently in the bottom three – Villa are guaranteed to rest key players for this one.
If Liverpool’s penalty shootout win over Arsenal in the last round is anything to go by, the abundance of inexperienced players on show on Tuesday will lead to porous defences and a glut of goals, making over 4.5 goals an entertaining bet.
Selection: Over 4.5 goals @ 11/5
Even with a weakened side, Villa should have far too much for the whippersnappers from Liverpool and they should have enough to win with some comfort.
Anything other than that would be highly embarrassing for a group of senior pros and Villa should be able to take care of the two-goal handicap. At 15/8, Aston Villa (-2) isn’t an unfathomable bet.
Selection: Aston Villa to win -2 on the handicap @ 15/8.
If Villa are to ease to an expected victory, then it goes without saying that they will look to hit the front early. Because of Liverpool’s bizarre selection issues, Villa to win half time/full time is almost unbackable at 1/2. However, the betting for the Midlands side to win both halves outright is far more attractive.
It is not unthinkable that Villa will outscore Liverpool in both periods of the game and the market for Villa to win both halves is a much more appealing.
Selection: Villa to win both halves @ 6/5.
*Prices correct at time of publishing but are fluid