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26/10/2007 No.25
Dan Roebuck
Friday October 26, 2007
  Arsenal in the mood to inflict more discomfort on Liverpool

The time has come for punters who took my advice on Arsenal at the start of the season to decide whether to cash in. Arsenal were a fantastic trading opportunity in the outright Premier League market on the betting exchanges - available at 11.5 (10.5-1) on Betfair (and 12-1 with the traditional bookmakers) to win the title. My tip was to back Arsène Wenger's team with a view to laying the bet off before they took on Liverpool and then Manchester United in successive weeks.

The first of those fixtures is on Sunday so punters must decide whether to stick or twist as they are holding an ante-post voucher with double-figures odds about Arsenal winning the title or an exchange account that is showing a potential profit. My advice would be to wait until after this weekend at least.

The north Londoners are 9-4 (Bet Direct and Paddy Power) to win the league (and can be laid at 3.8, that is 14-5 in fractions, on Betfair) and are the form team. They recorded a 12th successive win, against Slavia Prague, on Tuesday and Sky Bet are offering 10-1 they break their record of 14 consecutive victories set 20 years ago. For that bet to be successful, Arsenal will have to win on Sunday then defeat Sheffield United next Wednesday in the Carling Cup and United a week tomorrow. Rafael Benítez's team, having been cut to as short as 15-8 with some firms after taking 10 points from their first four Premier League games, are out to 6-1 (Boyle Sports and VC Bet) to win the title.

Arsenal are 2-1 (general) to win at Anfield, which is a tempting price, Liverpool are 6-4 (Bet365) with the draw 9-4 (general). A home win would not appeal at even double the price at the moment, as Liverpool are struggling in front of the Kop this season. Just one domestic win at Anfield coupled with a 1-0 reverse to Marseille in the Champions League marks the Merseysiders as a team not to trust at short odds on their own patch.

So what is the best way to back against them? Well, you could lay them on the exchanges - Liverpool were trading at around 2.78 (9-5 approximately) to lay at lunchtime yesterday - but a better, and potentially more profitable, option might be to back Arsenal in the "draw no bet" market at 11-10 (Blue Square and Boyle Sports). Should Arsenal win, you more than double your stake; if the match ends all square, you get your money back.

Liverpool were pushed out to 25-1 (general) to win the Champions League, following their 2-1 reverse at Besiktas on Wednesday and 1-2 (Ladbrokes) to fail to make the knockout stages (Arsenal are 9...#8209;1 best price with Betfred in the outright market). The pressure is mounting on Benítez (Ladbrokes quote 20-1 that he will be the next Premier League manager to leave) and, if Fernando Torres does not recover from injury, the Spaniard's team will be without their most effective striker. With that in mind, it may pay to back Arsenal, who have not conceded a goal in seven of their last eight fixtures, to keep a clean sheet at 23-10 (Paddy Power).

Theo Walcott might be grabbing the headlines for Arsenal (the former Southampton forward is 5-2 with Bet365 to be named in the England squad to face Croatia next month), and he could retain his place in the starting line-up at Anfield - his pace would certainly worry the ponderous Liverpool central defensive pair of Sami Hyypia and Jamie Carragher. Walcott is a 12-1 shot to score first but a better option might be Alexander Hleb.

The Belarussian is in fantastic form at the moment and, with Robin van Persie injured and Eduardo da Silva short on Premier League experience, Hleb could play as a second striker to Emmanuel Adebayor on Merseyside. Having already scored three times this season (which is as many as he did in the whole of last season), he looks a cracking each-way punt at 16-1 to get the opener. Hleb can be backed at 11-2 (Sky Bet) to score at any time.

TIP: Hleb can be backed at 11-2 (Sky Bet) to score at any time
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