Jamie Carragher said last week that Andy Carroll’s semi-final winner was worth the ￡35m transfer fee in itself, and while the defender might have been guilty of a bit of hyperbole, there was something almost inevitable about Carroll being the man to guide Liverpool into their second cup final of the season.
It was a dose of footballing irony that Everton fans had been among those first in the queue to mock and deride the expensive targetman this season, particularly as their equivalent ‘big money’ signing, Nikica Jelavic, cost one fifth the price of Carroll and seemed to have settled in a lot more quickly.
However now that the former Newcastle man has registered a goal that will live in both blue and red Merseyside folklore, opposing defences can expect a different, altogether more confident beast to deal with come the end of the season.
Which is not good news for West Brom, who are already one of the few sides to have conceded against the big striker this season when they lost 2-0 at home back in October. Carroll is 5/1 to continue his resurgence with the first goal in Sunday’s game.
The Baggies (6/1 to win) are once again comfortably mid-table, and are now looking to kick on and claim their first-ever Premier League top ten finish.
They have, however, taken just one point from their last four games, scoring only once, and even more worryingly have never scored at Anfield in the Premier League, having lost all five encounters and conceded ten. In fact their last win at Liverpool was way back in 1967.
Add the factor that Liverpool’s players will not only be buoyed by their cup semi-final success last week, but eager to cement or force their way into Kenny Dalglish’s cup final XI to take on Chelsea, and it all points to a pretty miserable return for Roy Hodgson, the man who spent only seven months in charge at Anfield.
The likes of Maxi Rodriguez, Craig Bellamy, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam are all far from being definites on Dalglish’s teamsheet come May 5th, but one man who is a cert is last week’s man-of-the-match, Luis Suarez, who is the 7/2 favourite to open the scoring.
The Reds are 1/2 to claim what would be only their third home win in their last nine league games at Anfield, a stat that might yet prompt many to go for the 3/1 on what would be the Reds’ tenth home draw of the season.