Dave Tindall is going unders in the goals markets when misfiring Liverpool host Southampton in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final...
"After Jose Mourinho showed what could be done by parking the bus at Anfield (a dull 0-0), other teams have slowly caught on."
Liverpool v Southampton
Wednesday 25 January, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports
The sexiest team in the land not so long ago are now struggling to catch anyone's eye.
Since rounding off 2016 with a 1-0 win over Manchester City (even that doesn't seem that great now given that the same opposition were thumped 4-0 at Everton), Liverpool have looked completely flat since the calendar turned.
To be frank, their 2017 has been horrid. A 2-2 draw at basement boys Sunderland, mustering a single goal over two games (via a Lucas set-piece header, of all things) to beat League Two Plymouth in the FA Cup, an embarrassing 3-2 home loss to Swansea at the weekend and a 1-0 defeat to Southampton in the first leg of this semi-final when they could have been hammered 3-0 or worse.
The 1-1 draw at Old Trafford was okay but United have won less than 50% of their home games in the Premier League this season so it was hardly a standout result.
The previously free-scoring Merseysiders are now chugging along at a goal per game and Plymouth and Swansea have quickly stripped away the Anfield fear-factor that had grown over the last year.
Liverpool are out of synch; Sadio Mane is badly missed, Philippe Coutinho hasn't got going yet after an injury absence, Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi are in awful form and the balance of the team has been altered since Adam Lallana switched to a more offensive position after he'd been flourishing in midfield.
Southampton had a dreadful time over the festive period with a hat-trick of Premier League defeats to Spurs, West Brom and Everton.
They conceded nine goals in those three matches and two more in an FA Cup draw at Norwich on January 2.
But since then a corner has been turned. While Liverpool have lost their mojo, Saints have found theirs and they've followed up that 1-0 triumph over the Reds in the first leg with victories over Norwich (1-0) and Leicester (3-0) to make it three wins in four starts.
True, all those results came at home but they did win 3-1 at Bournemouth (good home team) last month and scored a 2-0 victory at Arsenal earlier in this competition.
The worry for Saints fans/backers is that star defender Virgil Van Dijk was taken off against Leicester at the weekend with an ankle injury.
The Dutchman has been outstanding in both Southampton's games against Liverpool this season, helping his team to clean sheets in both matches.
Just as Liverpool backers were getting comfortable at taking the Reds at short prices when playing at Anfield, the carpet has been pulled from underneath them.
Trust is low after the home draw with Plymouth and defeat to Swansea so many will find it hard to pull the trigger at [1.54] and look to lay instead.
Southampton are [7.6] to follow in the footsteps of Swansea while a draw - a result that would also send Saints to the final - is [4.5].
Under 2.5 Goals
Under 2.5 goals at [2.12] is my standout bet on Wednesday night.
There are obvious reasons to lay Liverpool but I'd rather try and cash in on their current problems in front of goal and inability to score against Southampton this way.
The atmosphere will be much better than for the 12.30pm kick-off against the mistakenly-perceived cannon-fodder of Swansea and they may just be able to haul themselves over the line via a 1-0 (and subsequent extra-time/penalties success) or 2-0 as Southampton are the second lowest away scorers in the top 14 behind Burnley.
It would have seemed crazy taking such a bet earlier in the season when Liverpool racked up a 4-1 v Leicester, a 5-1 v Hull and a 6-1 v Watford.
But after Jose Mourinho showed what could be done by parking the bus at Anfield (a dull 0-0), other teams have slowly caught on.
In fact, Southampton boss Claude Puel may also deserve credit for revealing how to negate Liverpool.
His team were so negative in the 0-0 Premier League draw at St. Mary's in November that they didn't manage a single shot on target.
Puel again made his team sit deep and hit Jurgen Klopp's men on the break in the first leg and it worked a treat once more. It seems when teams drop off and bypass the Liverpool press, the Reds' powers are thwarted.
The balance of the tie is perfect for Southampton just sitting there and doing nothing.
As stated, Liverpool may get through at some point but, make no mistake, Saints are coming for a 0-0 or even a 1-0 defeat and taking their chance on penalties.
Right now, Klopp's team just don't have the zip and creativity to break stubborn teams down and Under 2.5 goals had landed in four straight Liverpool games before the slightly freakish 3-2 win for Swansea.
Last season in the semi-finals of this competition, Liverpool played out two 1-0s with Stoke before winning on spot-kicks and the tension is likely to be similarly restricting for attacking play with the carrot of another Wembley final dangling.
The hosts haven't scored over two goals in their last seven games and peak Liverpool (Coutinho-Firmino-Mane a fluid and match-fit front three with Lallana in midfield) seems a long time ago.
Despite Van Dijk's possible absence offering a note of caution, Unders at odds-against looks extremely appealing and, to be honest, it's not too hard to make a case for Under 1.5 at [4.2] so I'll stake a point on that too.
Another way to support Southampton is to take them at [2.06] to qualify for the final.
Of course, they could even lose in 90 minutes and win this market if they're successful in extra-time or a shootout.
Liverpool are [1.9] favourites to go through.
Dave Tindall's P/L, 2016/17