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Role reversal for Liverpool against United

Under Alex Ferguson, the Red Devils swept all before them, but it's a much different story now

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 March, 2014, 10:25pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 March, 2014, 12:04am

For much of the season, the English Premier League has divided so neatly into two sections - the breakaway top group of nine teams and the rest - that punters have had few of the evenly priced games that usually characterise the world's most popular league.

While competition has broadened at the top with the emergence of the big six and the exciting challenge also posed by Everton in the first half of this season, the divide between the haves and the have nots has been stark - 11 points separate the top nine from the rest.

This competitive imbalance has led to a host of long odds-on chances every week and, while there will always be surprise results, betting has been difficult.

United are out of the title race and cast in the role of potential spoilers as Liverpool pursue Chelsea at the top
Nick Pulford

This weekend is different, however, because three teams stand out as decent value.

The first is in the opening match of the Super Sunday double-header, when Liverpool have good prospects of an away win over bitter rivals Manchester United.

This match is a complete role reversal from the Sir Alex Ferguson era, when United swept all before them and Liverpool's best hope for most of that period was to throw them off course in their individual match-ups rather than throw down a concerted title challenge themselves.

Now, United are out of the title race and cast in the role of potential spoilers as Liverpool pursue Chelsea at the top.

The table says United have gone from title winners to the worst team in the big six, whereas Liverpool - who occupied that position at the end of last season - have gone from strength to strength under Brendan Rodgers.

The biggest question is whether Liverpool can produce their best form on such a big stage away from Anfield, as they have lost away to their main title rivals - Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal.

Liverpool were highly competitive in their 2-1 defeats at Chelsea and City. At Chelsea they led, hit the crossbar and had a couple of credible penalty appeals, while they also led at City and had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside.

A similar display may well produce a different result at United, who have been vulnerable against teams that have dared to attack.

Six of the eight teams that have scored at Old Trafford have taken at least a point and Liverpool can be expected to do the same. That makes the visitors a good bet on the handicap.

The second standout bet is Newcastle away to Fulham, who look doomed at the bottom of the table. Felix Magath will not have time to get the Fulham players fitter and, while they have looked better organised since he took charge, the defence still leak goals.

Fulham have not kept a clean sheet in their last 14 league games and their record is bad against the top teams. They have conceded in all 14 matches against the top nine, taking only one point out of a possible 42.

While Newcastle have had some unexpectedly poor results on the road, they should be too strong for Fulham.

Swansea are the third recommendation. The two positives are the appointment of Garry Monk as manager and their exit from the Europa League, which will enable them to concentrate on their domestic form.

Even with this season's difficulties, Swansea have an excellent record against the lesser teams, having won six out of nine.