Arsenal loss proves Liverpool's gain

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The Independent Online
Arsenal's unexpected loss to Nottingham Forest on Saturday left Liverpool ever-firmer favourites for the Premiership, and their price would close to within touching distance of odds-on with victory against their nearest market rivals, Newcastle, at St James's Park tonight.

A Liverpool win is best-priced at 7-4 with Coral while Newcastle are 11-8 (Ladbrokes, Hills, Tote) to get their championship challenge back on track after their own surprise defeat at Coventry last week. The draw is widely available at 9-4.

There are any number of angles to this game, not least the competition between the two finest forward lines in Britain, while the memory of last season's seven-goal thriller at Anfield is fresh in the memory.

So, too, is Newcastle's dashing display against Manchester United earlier in the season, but just how reliable that 5-0 scoreline might be as a form guide must be doubtful. It was the one game in which defeat was out of the question, and Newcastle are unlikely to be as fired up again at any point this season.

Liverpool, too, have shown blips in form recently, most notably when suffering a home defeat by Sheffield Wednesday. Whether Kevin Keegan chooses to man-mark Steve McManaman may hold the key to tonight's game, but with both defences looking capable of shipping goals this season, plenty of excitement seems guaranteed.

In matches such as this, punters always prefer to cheer for one side or the other, and the odds reflect this. Given that a draw would not be a disaster for either side, that looks the best option at 9-4, while true optimists may wish to try a 2-2 scoreline.

Aston Villa's 5-0 win last night over Wimbledon has slashed their title odds with William Hill from 10-1 to 7-1 fifth favourite.

PREMIERSHIP TITLE ODDS (Hill): 6-4 Liverpool; 11-4 Manchester United; 4-1 Arsenal; 5-1 Newcastle; 7-1 Aston Villa.