Betting Column - An unhappy return to Anfield for Benitez and Torres?

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Rafa Benitez and Fernando Torres return to their old stamping ground this weekend as Chelsea head to Merseyside to take on Liverpool.

But it could be an unhappy Anfield reunion for the pair because the Reds look a decent bet to edge the crucial Premier League contest.

Aided by home advantage, Liverpool are Ladbrokes’ 5/4 favourites while Stan James post 5/2 against the visiting top four hopefuls, who are also 5/2, this time with BetVictor, to earn themselves a share of the spoils.

The stalemate will certainly attract support, however, Brendan Rodgers’s charges have an impressive recent record against the West London outfit whose victory over Liverpool in the 2012 FA Cup final was their only one in the last seven renewals and as Chelsea have struggled a touch on the road of late, the Reds get the nod.

Bet365’s 3/1, chalked against a home success by a one-goal margin catches the eye then and other wagers that appeal include Stan James’s 9/1 for a 2-1 Liverpool triumph or a victory for Rodgers’s side secured despite an inconclusive first 45 minutes at 19/4 via BetVictor.

Luis Suarez meanwhile, was denied by an outstanding performance from Reading stopper Alex McCarthy last weekend as the Reds dominated at the Madejski Stadium but the Uruguayan, who was on target when Rodgers’s men drew at Stamford Bridge, can find the target here – he’s 9/2 (William Hill) to break the deadlock.

On Monday, Manchester United can tighten their grip on top spot by beating struggling Aston Villa at Old Trafford, where the champions-elect have won all but two of their matches.

Coral quote Sir Alex Ferguson’s troops at 1/4 to emerge victorious and despite Villa’s recent revival, it could be a straightforward evening for United, who are a 4/7 chance when kicking off a goal behind in Stan James’s handicaps.

Tottenham’s clash with Manchester City on Sunday has the potential to be a real cracker as Spurs keep up their pursuit of a top four berth but the duo may have to settle for point apiece.

BetVictor’s 5/2, chalked against the draw and Stan James’s 14/1 for a 2-2 scoreline are therefore the best bets at White Hart Lane.

Staying with the battle for European places and Arsenal might also have to be content with a stalemate at Fulham, an outcome bet365 offer at 11/4 while Everton can extend their unbeaten sequence against Sunderland to a remarkable 19 games, albeit by only managing to draw, at 12/5 (Skybet), against Paulo Di Canio’s rejuvenated side.

QPR are as good as relegated but at 6/5 with Paddy Power, they’re nevertheless decent value to turn up the heat on fellow strugglers Stoke at Loftus Road and staying at the foot of the table.

Wigan’s plight is 5/4 via BetVcitor to worsen at the hands of West Ham and bet365 rate Norwich at 8/11 to overcome rock-bottom Reading.

Finally, Newcastle’s dismal away record strengthens the case for a West Brom win (5/4, Betfred) as the pair face off at the Hawthorns and Stan James mark 13/10 against Swansea ahead of their home clash with Southampton.

All eyes will be on Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible this weekend as the world champion returns from his self-imposed hiatus to defend his title.

‘The Rocket’ is 6/1 via Stan James to retain the crown, clinched with an 18-11 victory over Ali Carter a year ago but by his own admittance, O’Sullivan is unsure how his comeback will go so he represents something of a risk for punters.

Australian Neil Robertson, the 2010 winner, is also a 6/1 shot, this time at Ladbrokes but it’s Mark Selby that looks the best bet at 13/2 with Paddy Power, having captured the Masters and the UK Championship this season.

In this weekend’s televised Challenge Cup clash, Hull KR entertain St Helens for the second time in the space of a few weeks.

In the first meeting Rovers came up with a 22-14 victory in the Super League but the hosts are Skybet’s 7/4 outsiders on this occasion with Saints considered favourites at 4/7 by BetVictor.

The bookies look to have called it correctly, with Nathan Brown’s troops set to gain revenge and bet365 make them 10/11 to cover a four-point start in the handicaps.

In Formula One, Fernando Alonso is decent value at 5/2 via Ladbrokes to capture the Bahrain Grand Prix on the back of his victory in China last weekend.

The Spaniard has won the race three times while his Ferrari team have secured four successes in eight renewals at the Sakhir Circuit and that should stand him in good stead.

With good qualifying speed but less race pace, Lewis Hamilton stands out at 10/3 (BetVictor) to clinch pole position.

Bet of the week: Mark Selby to win the World Snooker Championship – 13/2 (Paddy Power).

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