Aston Villa v Liverpool: Take a chance on 10/1 Konsa
Aston Villa will face what is essentially a Liverpool youth team in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday and Andy Schooler has picked out a 10/1 scorer tip...
Aston Villa v Liverpool Tuesday December 17, 19:45 Live on Sky Sports Football & Main Event
A 20-man Liverpool squad flew out to Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup on Sunday where they will play less than 24 hours after this game has taken place.
The only senior players left behind were those that are injured - think Fabinho, Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren - and so the team the Reds field at Villa Park is going to be a very young one.
I almost used the word unrecognisable there but that won't be the case to anyone who has seen Liverpool in this year's Carabao Cup with Jurgen Klopp having sprinkled a number of his youngsters into his team for the 2-0 win at MK Dons and the penalty shoot-out success (after a 5-5 draw) at home to Arsenal.
Young guns primed
Caoimhin Kelleher started both games in goal, defenders Sepp van den Berg and Ki-Jana Hoever have both been given chances, while further forward Rhian Brewster and Harvey Elliott - neither of whom made the plane for Qatar - have been among those trusted by Klopp.
Of course, the German won't be in charge here. Instead it will be under-23s boss Neil Critchley and he can be expected to pick an XI filled almost completely by players who have played under him in Premier League 2 this season.
While the Carabao Cup has shown there is undoubted talent in that pool of players, the worry for anyone considering backing Liverpool at a big price is that Liverpool's U23 side sit in mid-table and have conceded a whopping 32 goals in their 13 games.
The club's under-19 team, which has been playing in the UEFA Youth League, has fared better - they are through to what is essentially the junior Champions League knockout stage - but even two of that side can't play here as both Curtis Jones, the under-23s top scorer, and Neco Williams are in Qatar.
Changes on cards for hosts too
Aston Villa should have the quality to capitalise on that poor defensive record - the markets certainly expect them to - but they too will surely make changes.
A run of one Premier League win in eight has left Villa one place outside the relegation zone and they next face a massive three-game run against their drop rivals, starting at home to Southampton on Saturday. Lose and they will fall into the bottom three.
That will surely influence Dean Smith's team selection and it's not hard to see him thinking a much-changed line-up should still be able to do the business against a bunch of kids.
His reserves didn't have a problem scoring goals earlier in this competition, smashing six past Crewe, netting three at Brighton and then grabbing two to edge past local rivals Wolves.
That may alleviate concerns raised over Saturday's toothless display at Sheffield United where Villa really struggled to create meaningful chances.
Maybe that was the product of a confidence-sapping run but in general Villa have been strong going forward this term with their main problems being at the other end of the field.
Villa strong favourites
For this one, defender Tyrone Mings remains out but in midfield Conor Hourihane looks set to be available again after a knock.
In terms of the match result, I would expect Villa to get the job done but it may not be as easy as 90-minute odds of 1.28 suggest. That's too short for me.
Liverpool can be backed at 10.50 but those defensive stats taken from under-23 level make pretty grim reading ahead of game where they will face greater quality and will do so without any support from senior players.
Goals to flow?
In terms of goals, the markets are well up to speed with over 2.5 at just 1.39 and over 3.5 also odds-on at 1.95.
The unders tempt to some extent here - under 2.5 is at 3.00 - but not enough to lure me in. Both Villa and Liverpool's under-23s have been stronger going forward than they have at the back and that's clearly a recipe for goals.
With plenty of doubt around how the game will unfold, I prefer to seek out a big-priced fancy in a bid to land a tasty winner.
And the way I'll try to do that is by turning to Villa defender Ezri Konsa in the anytime scorer market. The 22-year-old's Carabao Cup displays in earlier rounds helped propel him into the Premier League XI, although he was dropped to the bench on Saturday.
He scored against Crewe back in August from a set-play and that's an area Villa have profited from, scoring seven league goals from such situations - only Liverpool and Bournemouth have a better record.
Konsa, who assisted from another set-piece against Leicester recently, also managed to make the most of some low-quality defending by scoring for England under-21s against Andorra last year.
At 10.50 in the early Exchange market or 10/1 with the Sportsbook, he looks worth a punt to make the most of facing another back-line which clearly isn't out of the top drawer.
Liverpool have won each of their last six visits to Aston Villa in all competitions, all coming in the Premier League between December 2011 and November this season.