Leeds v Liverpool, Carling Cup, September 21, 2009
This match has the word banana skin written all over it for Liverpool.
Rafa Benitez’s side have won four on the bounce since losing two of their three opening Premier League matches and after a few bumpy opening few weeks of the season the Spaniard is likely to treat the Carling Cup as an unwanted distraction. Benitez, famed for his rotation policy since arriving at Anfield, is expected to make wholesale changes as the Reds travel to League One Leeds with Steven GerrardÂ (5/1 to score last) and Fernando Torres (7/2 to score last) the biggest names set to get the night off.
In turn, Liverpool are likely to include second-choice goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri between the sticks, while the Reds’ backline could see new Greece defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos ( 25/1 to score first) line up alongside Philipp Degen and Andreas Dossena. There are also outside chances for Fabio Aurelio and Daniel Agger to receive some playing minutes after both defenders make their way back from injury.
While a host of youngsters – Stephen Darby, Jay Spearing (6/1 to score), Martin Kelly and Nathan Eccleston – will all be vying for a rare run out, Benitez, conscience of his opponents’ blistering start to new season, will have to make sure that his team has enough quality to be able to win at Elland Road.
Yossi Benayoun (11/2 to score last), Ryan Babel and Andriy Voronin (9/2 for both Babel & Voronin to score) should all feature in the Reds’ attack while French youngster David Ngog (5/4 to score), who scored the winner for the reserves last week against Manchester United, could also start the game.
For Leeds, manager Simon Grayson will know that for all the joy his side has brought with their 12 match unbeaten record since the start of the season, facing off against the old enemy Liverpool will remind many of the what The Whites have lost since slipping from the Premier League five long years ago.
Aside from the absence of Rui Marques, Leeds have a relatively settled and full strength side to pick from on Tuesday night. Jermaine Beckford (6/1 to score first), the prolific striker with six goals in seven matches this season already, will be chomping at the bit to prove he can score against higher levelÂ opposition, while strike-partner Luciano Becchio’s( 10/3 to score) strong physical presence could also be a handful for the visitors.
In midfield, alongside Michael Doyle and Robert Snodgrass (7/2 to score), Bradley Johnson (11/2 to score) will be fresh-faced after scoring a brace against Gillingham last weekend, while Jonathan Howson will also have a scent for goal after netting his first of the season against the Gills.
With Liverpool poised to send out a second-string eleven, Benitez will be hoping that his also-rans will be energised to prove to themselves and the gaffer why they should be included in the remainder of the Reds’ season. The danger of such a ploy however is that the playing field will be levelled from a Leeds’ perspective, and if the hosts can get their noses in front the Carling Cup could have an early shock in round three.
101predicts: Leeds 2 – Liverpool 3 (25/1)
Full match odds here.