Mark O'Haire: Central Attacking Salah To Gun Down Arsenal

8 min’s Mark O’Haire dips his toe into the Scottish Premiership, and picks out a bet from the big game at Anfield where Liverpool will be seeking to solidify their position at top of the league when they welcome Arsenal on Saturday evening.

Kilmarnock v St Mirren (Saturday 3pm)

The Old Firm Derby might take top billing in Scotland on Saturday, and understandably so, but Kilmarnock have another great chance to state their claim as a Premiership contender by seeing off St Mirren at Rugby Park.

Manager Steve Clarke has performed minor miracles since arriving in the hot-seat in October 2017, guiding a previously winless Killie to a fifth-placed finish with a record points haul. Clarke opted to invest faith in continuity and camaraderie in the summer, keeping incomings to a minimum and the Ayrshire club have gone from strength-to-strength.

That upward trend has continued into 2018/19 too. Coming into this weekend’s action, no top-tier team has picked up as many points in 2018 as Kilmarnock as Saturday’s hosts have suffered only five defeats in 32 this calendar year. Killie are third in the current standings on merit – their xG numbers being bang in-line with their goals and results output.

Steve Clarke is working miracles at Hibs.

I’m happy supporting the home side with a -0.75 Asian Handicap with Kilmarnock making Rugby Park into a fortress under their current tutorship. Clarke will celebrate his 50th Premiership contest in charge against St Mirren and his charges have claimed 15 wins from 22 here, including six from nine this season.

Killie are also awesome operators against the division’s lesser lights, returning w7-D2-L0 against bottom-half teams this term, as well as W10-D1-L0 at Rugby Park against the same standard of opposition under Clarke.

This season, Kilmarnock are boasting a 69% xG ratio on home soil, shipping more than a solitary strike just once.

Meanwhile, visitors St Mirren have scored more than one goal just once in their nine previous road trips and despite enjoying their best spell of the season (W2-D2-L4), it’s noticeable how their efforts diminish against the Premiership’s elite.

Of the four games Saints avoided defeat in that eight-game sequence, three came against clubs in eighth or below. The Buddies have been beaten in 10 of 12 when excluding clubs in eighth and below, failing to score in exactly half of those 12 tussles. Against the top-four the guests have lost five of six winless matches, shipping an average of 2.00 goals per-game.

St Mirren have recorded a sole shutout on the road this term, shipping 2.33 goals per-game and are returning a paltry 29% xG ratio in games as guests, cementing the idea that Kilmarnock should be well capable of completing a comfortable victory here.

Liverpool v Arsenal (Saturday 5.30pm)

Liverpool are odds-on favourites to land a first league title since 1990 and the Reds can be backed to cement their position as Premier League front-runners by seeing off Arsenal at Anfield. It’s only the fourth time a Premier League team have reached the halfway stage of a season unbeaten and the Merseysiders are difficult to oppose in their current mood.

After an apparently slow start this season, the 12 goal Salah has sights on winning the Golden Boot for a second year running

Liverpool have tabled seven successive victories in all competitions, and landed eight wins on the spin in the Premier League by an aggregate 22-2. Having been criticised for their apparent laboured start, Jurgen Klopp’s shift towards 4-2-3-1 with Roberto Firmino dropping deeper and Mohamed Salah playing a central role now appears to be bearing fruit.

The Reds have racked up three or more goals in four of their last five fixtures, whilst they’ve averaged 2.34 xG in those recent eight triumphs, seven of which were by two or more goals.

The hosts are excelling at the back, conceding only seven goals, and a shutout here would see the Merseysiders record the fewest goals against after 20 English top-flight games.

Meanwhile, at Anfield, they’re unbeaten in 30 Premier League games – Man City being the only team to escape with anything on Merseyside this season. Such impressive efforts make the -1 Asian Handicap offering of 1.78 appealing, knowing our cash is safe is the home side seal victory by a single strike.

Arsenal enjoyed a 22-game unbeaten streak before losing out at Southampton and Spurs in the EFL Cup, and failed to beat Brighton away despite a strong start. The Gunners’ only success in four came against Burnley and they’ve now registered only four wins in 10, whilst their defensive injury absences continue to cause concern.

The capital club have still yet to silence Premier League opposition on the road, conceding 1.78 goals on their travels.

With Liverpool a cut above – 12 points better off on the Expected Points table – the short-priced favouritism is fair enough, to me, in what will be a fervent Anfield atmosphere.

Recommended Bets

  • Kilmarnock v St Mirren – Kilmarnock -0.75 Asian Handicap (1.73)
  • Liverpool v Arsenal – Liverpool -1 Asian Handicap (1.78)