Aston Villa take on Liverpool in the FA Cup on Friday in a 7:45pm kick-off at Villa Park.
The Villains will field a combination of Under-18 and Under-23 players as their first-team has suffered from an outbreak of COVID-19.
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Liverpool, meanwhile, are likely to rest several first choice players themselves, but will still probably call on their fringe players in their first-team squad.
As such, the Reds are heavily odds-on 1/9 favourites to win the match, with Villa’s youngsters causing a massive upset 16/1. The draw is 19/2, with extra-time and penalties if the sides can still not be separated following in that scenario.
Life works in mysterious ways, with these two same sides involved in a similar scenario in last season’s League Cup quarter-final tie, when Liverpool were due to play in Qatar 24 hours later in the Club World Championship.
Klopp elected to travel with the entire first-team squad and use his youngsters against Villa, with Dean Smith’s side running out 5-0 winners.
As such, I’ve had a play on Liverpool winning 5-0 tonight at 20/1 (Betfair). I had a nice 100/1 winner in that match last season, which was Jonathan Kodjia to score twice and Villa to win 5-0, so I’ve had a similar bet at a similar price with Divock Origi to score twice and Liverpool to win 5-0 tonight.
Villa do have some talented youngsters by all accounts, though, with striker Louie Barry signed from Barcelona this time last year and attacking midfielder Aaron Ramsey (not that one) said to be a terrific talent. The duo are both still only 17-years-old, but Barry has scored six goals in 10 appearances in the U23’s this season, with Ramsey hitting the back of the net three times in 11 games.
Barry is 13/2 to score anytime (bet365), which might be worth a small play for a bit of interest if he starts given he is likely to be up against Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams in defence for Liverpool, who it’s probably fair to say are at an U23 standard anyway.
However, much will depend on how strong Liverpool go, which makes betting on these kind of uncertain fixtures a difficult entity before seeing the teamsheets. Personally, I’m expecting Klopp to play his ‘B’ team, with the likes of Origi, Takumi Minamino and Xherdan Shaqiri in attack, which is obviously still more than good enough to beat a young Villa side.
As such, my Bet Builder tonight would be Liverpool to win by three or more goals and Over 7 Corners for Both Teams Combined at a shade over evens:
Liverpool should dominate possession, allowing them to rack up the corners, and I’d be surprised if they can’t win at least 3-0 or 4-1, although it would not surprise me to see them show some mercy and take their foot off the gas if they get to a certain scoreline given Villa’s cruel circumstances, so be careful on how far you run with any handicap betting.
Another odds-against bet I like is Minamino to score anytime at 21/20 (Bet Victor). The Japan attacking midfielder looked bright against Crystal Palace, opening the scoring with a composed finish, but he has barely featured since, so I’m pretty sure he will start. He’s had a disappointing first year at Liverpool but there is no doubt he possesses plenty of quality and I can see him adding to his tally tonight, especially if he is used from the left rather than as a false nine, which I’m not sure suits him.
Sky Bet have Minamino and Origi both scoring at 13/2, with Curtis Jones and Origi at 10/1 and Minamino and Jones at 12/1. These odds look huge to me, but I’ll be waiting for team news before placing any bets (which probably means the prices will be gone, but so be it).
Craig Pawson officiates the clash and while he’s one of the better referees around (both in terms of quality in my opinion, and statistically for showing cards), cup ties generally see fewer cards shown, especially in weird circumstances like this game.
Liverpool did receive one card in the aforementioned League Cup tie, though, so the two players I have my eye on for Villa are Mungo Bridge at 3/1 and Dominic Revan at 7/1 (both bet365). Bridge has been carded eight times in 27 appearances for Villa’s U23’s, while Revan has been carded more times (four) than any other Villa U23 player so far this season, so looks a big price.