By John Dillon | | 4 mins
Wounded Liverpool’s Premier League Title Odds Remain Strong
It is the football record that hurts with particular sharpness and Liverpool broke it spectacularly last season.
Their Premier League runners-up points tally of 97 beat by no fewer than eight points the previous best second-placed total, set by Manchester United in 2011-12.
In 25 of the 27 campaigns since the competition was reduced to 20 teams in 1996-97, that figure would have been enough to hand Jurgen Klopp the title, with his men beaten only once over the nine-month stretch.
Equally galling must be the knowledge that back in that first 20-team season, United managed to finish on top with only 75 points. And that Newcastle United’s runners-up spot that year was achieved with only 68 points, a huge 29 behind what Liverpool racked up last May.
They are numbers to make any long-serving Anfield fan wince as the enduring wait for a first league title since 1989-90 goes on.
Of course, the disappointment and frustration was wiped out in spectacular style by victory in the Champions League. Some pain-killer, that.
But before the triumph against Tottenham in Madrid, there was a pile-up of unwanted statistics detailing how Liverpool had been so close and in such formidable style; without landing the prize which has eluded them since the days of the old Division One.
As they gear up for another crack at unseating Manchester City – with the teams meeting in the Community Shield curtain-raiser at Wembley on Sunday – some of the conviction that they will again push Pep Guardiola all the way has been diminished by a troublesome pre-season spell.
In six friendlies, they have been beaten three times, drawn once and won only twice – a 3-0 drubbing by Napoli in Edinburgh last Sunday proving particularly dismal.
It has been reflected in a slight slip in Liverpool’s odds of winning the Premier League with a move out to from 9/4 (+225) to 5/2 (+250) with BoyleSports and BetVictor.
Similarly, they have drifted to 12/5 (+240) with Ladbrokes and 11/4 (+275) with Paddy Power while City remain favourites across the board – at 1/2 (-200) with BetHard, William Hill, Coral and other top UK bookies.
⚽? The two-horse is already seeing one being favoured beforethe race has even begun—Bookies UK (@bookies_uk) July29, 2019
? Can anyonematch City this year?
Full Premier League Odds: https://t.co/ZZDmdFCqP7#lfc#mcfc#thfc#cfcpic.twitter.com/iEgFk1xFGf
Somehow, Liverpool must find a way to become even more consistent in the coming campaign.
But after only one defeat last term – critically, it was against City – there simply isn’t much wriggle room in that department in realistic terms.
When Arsenal managed a whole campaign without losing once in 2003-04, it delivered the title. When Chelsea then suffered only one setback in 2004-05, it was enough to ensure they became champions, too.
More wince-inducing statistics after Liverpool’s narrow miss last May.
An unbeaten campaign for Klopp this time around, of course, would surely deliver the title. Fewer draws – there were seven in 2018-19 – would, quite obviously, be an even more effective up-grade. That’s what pure mathematical analysis demands.
But in a game that’s about heart, passion and luck as well as straight-forward numbers, it could still seem a little awkward and incongruous to tell a team beaten only once in nine months that inconsistency was their failing. Especially as City suffered four defeats on the way to their second successive title victory.
Worryingly, the evidence of this pre-season – in a summer of little spending at Anfield – contrasts strikingly with the tone set by the team’s preparations last year.
Then, they played nine friendlies and won eight – with wins against United, City, Borussia Dortmund and Napoli included.
Do Pre-Season Friendlies Matter?
There must always be a rider inserted about the true meaning of pre-season games.
Liverpool have also succumbed to Sevilla and Dortmund in recent days, but they have been without an array of gilded talent – with Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and goalkeeper Allison among those resting after summer international tournament duty.
Naby Keita and Sherdan Xhakiri have also been absent through injury.
Despite Liverpool’s summer blip, the Premier League betting traders still see the title battle as a two-horse race. Third favourites Tottenham are as far out as 20/1 (+2000) with Betfair behind Liverpool.
However, City, with a 100-point triumph in 2017-18 and a 98-point win last season are clearly setting demanding new standards at the top.
Ironically, Kopp claimed the European prize prized most at the Etihad.
But another record-breaking near-miss in the title race would turn the disappointment of last May into prolonged torture at Anfield – and make the Premier League’s glass ceiling appear even more impregnable.
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