Stoke Arnautovic 50kb

Mark O’Haire’s Capital One Cup Tips – Tuesday

Stoke welcome Liverpool to the Britannia Stadium for the first tie of a two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final on Tuesday night with Wembley in sight.

Stoke v Liverpool, Tuesday 5 January 2016 (20.00), Sky Sports 1
Neither side started the New Year with a bang, as the Potters were beaten 2-1 at West Brom, whilst Jurgen Klopp’s men fell to a disappointing 2-0 defeat to West Ham at Upton Park.

The Reds, eight-time winners of this competition, have been chalked up as narrow 6/4 favourites to take the first-leg in this contest but punters should steer well clear at such skinny quotes.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and Liverpool fans are finding out that even Klopp will require time and funds to bring the glory days back to Anfield. The charismatic German was understandably spitting feathers on Saturday after a poor showing in the capital.

The Dortmund hero accused his team of putting in just “90% effort” at the home of the Hammers and the result followed a below-par December. The Reds were brushed aside by Newcastle and Watford and held by West Brom, although they did manage to see off Leicester and Sunderland.

The Merseysiders still look to be adjusting to the all-action approach that Klopp favours and although this competition did provide the high point of Klopp’s reign so far – the 6-1 win at Southampton – hat-trick hero Divock Origi is out injured leaving Christian Benteke as the only fit and available striker.

The Belgian hasn’t looked a natural fit for Klopp’s system and it’s telling that Liverpool are scoring just a goal every 84 minutes with him on the pitch – only 16 goals in 1,347 minutes. Benteke’s key stats (shots-per-game, shot accuracy, shot conversion rate and aerial duels) are also all down on all previous campaigns too.

Liverpool’s tally of 22 goals after 20 Premier League matches is their lowest return in HISTORY at this stage of a season. The Merseysiders have notched just once in their previous five road trips and although this is their second successive League Cup semi-final appearance for the first time since 1987…

I just can’t summon enough positivity to believe they’re good enough to justify their pre-match price.

With the Reds struggling in the final third, Stoke are excelling at the back and in attack. Since skipper Ryan Shawcross returned to the fray, the Potters have W5-D2-L3 and kept six clean sheets across those 10 games; previously they’d only W4-D3-L4 and returned two shutouts in 11.

Mark Hughes’ men have recorded four clean sheets in five at the Britannia with Jack Butland also deserving special praise for an outstanding campaign thus far. What’s more, the versatile and consistent Geoff Cameron’s weekend red card has been rescinded and he’ll be available on Tuesday night.

The Potters have scored just five goals in their four Capital One Cup ties this term, fewer than any other side left in the competition, but their exciting attacking trio of Marko Arnautovic, Bojan and Xherdan Shaqiri have sparkled in recent weeks.

Liverpool ran out as 1-0 winners when these two sides met in the Premier League on the opening weekend but cast your mind back final day of last season and Stoke smashed the Reds 6-1. And since that curtain-raising reverse, the Potters have beaten Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United in the top-flight at home this term.

It continues a fabulous theme for Hughes against the Premier League elite. Before this season, the Welshman’s home record against top-four teams read W12-D9-L12 and a huge £535 profit from level £10 stakes. The hosts were 14/5 when beating United, 9/2 when overcoming City and 7/2 when dispatching Chelsea.

So why should we abandon them now at 15/8? We shouldn’t.

Brave punters should take a peek at the 1-0 and 2-0 correct scores in favour of the hosts at 13/2 and 12/1. Only six of Stoke’s 20 Premier League fixtures have featured more than two goals – the lowest in the division – and those City, United and Chelsea triumphs followed this theme.

Alternatively, the 5/1 Draw-Stoke option may appeal to stats fans in the Half-Time/Full-Time market. The guests have delivered half-time draws in 14 of their 20 top tier fixtures and eight of their 11 outings outside of Anfield have followed suit.

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Stoke to win (15/8)

*Prices correct at time of publication.