England Soccer Betting

If Liverpool are to save their season, they must win in Middlesbrough on Saturday. But according to the bookies, it's already too late. At this point, a wager on Liverpool to win England's Premier League would be equivalent to throwing money away.

Sunday's 3-0 loss against Arsenal has left the Scousers in ninth spot and owning the worst away record in the English Premiership.

This is hardly the beginning to the season that Liverpool were expecting.

According to preseason odds, Liverpool were expected to challenge Manchester United and Chelsea this year. Instead, the gap between them and the league leaders is now 14 points – chiefly because Liverpool have failed to win a single match away from home this season.

Undefeated at Anfield, Liverpool have drawn one and lost five of six away matches this year.

Despite those setbacks, left-back John Arne Riise insists he is still aiming for the title, suggesting only "cowards give up," but goalkeeper Pepe Reina may have been more realistic when he admitted Liverpool's season is now about finishing fourth and qualifying for Champions League football.

"Fourth place is our goal now, we have to fight for that," Reina said.

"The league title is probably too far away for us because mathematically Manchester United and Chelsea are very superior."

"We have lots of confidence in Europe, and that is a target as well. We are probably a better team in the Champions League than in the English Premiership," he added, referring to Liverpool's unbeaten run after four matches in Europe this season.

Coach Rafa Benitez has always seemed more suited tactically in the Champions League - Liverpool won it in 2005 - than the Premiership, but unless the Merseysiders solve their problems on the road, they will fail to even qualify for next year's competition.

"I can't understand why we play so poorly away from Anfield, I really cannot," Riise said after Sunday's defeat.

Several important members of the team have had a week of international duty ahead of Saturday's evening match at the Riverside.

Liverpool face a Middlesbrough club that has claimed 12 of 18 points at home this year but suffer from the same travel problems as Liverpool.

Considering Middlesbrough's strong home form, it might be surprising that the bookies have installed Liverpool as a slight bet favourites in what should be a tight game.

But it is hard to abandon the idea that Liverpool are one of the top four teams in England. They have more than enough talent in the club.

The problem for Rafael Benitez seems to be finding a way to use all of it.

The Spanish coach spent the summer putting together one of the finest collections of strikers in the league, signing Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt to complement Peter Crouch, Robbie Fowler and midfielder Luis Garcia.

But 12 matches into the Premiership season, Benitez has not yet determined his best pairing, and consequently he has unsettled players who are under performing (Kuyt aside).

The bigger problem is in midfield. Liverpool depend too greatly on Steven Gerrard and Rafa is not getting the most out of his captain.

The manager has preferred to partner Mohamed Sissoko with Xabi Alonso in midfield, pushing Gerrard to the right, where he has less influence on the match.

Sissoko's shoulder injury has given Benitez a chance to move Gerrard back into his preferred central position.

But when the teams faced off at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday, Benitez had bizarrely opted to put Bolo Zenden in midfield with Gerrard remaining on the wing. He realized his mistake after 70 minutes, bringing on Jermaine Pennant and moving Gerrard in, but by that point it was already 2-0 and too late.

Steven Gerrard should play in the centre, even if it requires moving to the same diamond formation that Chelsea uses to contain both Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack in front of Michael Essien.

So long as Gerrard stays on the wing, Liverpool will remain outside the top three in the English Premiership.