Nottingham Forest 11.521/2 v Liverpool 1.321/3, the Draw 6.25/1
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Cooper has restored hope by the Trent
As a dashing young student, in the days before time, crisps and a lack of exercise did the damage, I lived just a few doors down from the City Ground. Nottingham Forest were a Premier League side back then, and I witnessed first-hand their slide into the Football League in 1999, a fateful event they are yet to recover from. As a student radio reporter I was nearly ejected from a press conference by David Platt as the then manager attempted to justify his lavish spending on his old Italian teammates and associates, and since then there have been a few ups but a lot more setbacks.
Fast forward to 2022, and hope has returned. Forest have had a thrilling run to the FA Cup quarter-finals, dumping out Arsenal and East Midlands foes Leicester City along the way. They are just a point shy of the Championship play-off places after a run of seven wins in 11, with a solitary defeat in that sequence.
Former Swansea and England youth boss Steve Cooper has harnessed the potential of a talented squad, and he is seen as a far more progressive appointment than his predecessor Chris Hughton.
Forest’s recent home form has been fantastic. They have won eight of their last nine matches at the City Ground and they are yet to lose there in 2022. With 53 goals scored, Forest go into this weekend with the joint-best attacking record outside the Championship’s top two.
Defenders Steve Cook and Max Lowe are already out, while Scott McKenna is a doubt after failing to complete the 90 minutes against QPR.
Liverpool on course for glorious campaign
With the League Cup in the trophy cabinet already, Liverpool are still in the mix for three more pieces of silverware. With all due respect to upcoming opponents Benfica, that was the dream draw for the Reds in the Champions League quarter-finals. Liverpool’s 2-0 win at Arsenal in midweek moved them to within a point of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League (they were 14 points adrift at one stage), and they are two wins away from a first FA Cup final of the Jürgen Klopp era.
The Merseyside giants have won their last seven competitive away games, if you include the Carabao Cup final against Chelsea at Wembley. They have only lost twice on their travels all season, going down 3-2 at West Ham and 1-0 at Leicester City in the Premier League. Our friends at Infogol are telling us that this Liverpool side is putting up some of the most spectacular Expected Goals figures they have ever seen. This is a team on serious form.
It remains to be seen how much Klopp will shuffle his pack, but Trent Alexander-Arnold is definitely out injured. He is the one player Liverpool simply can’t replace like-for-like. Mo Salah is also a doubt with a foot injury, although goals for Diogo Jota and Roberto Firmino at the Emirates showcased the attacking depth Liverpool have at their disposal.
Liverpool to reach final four after fireworks
Forest have to be respected, but even without a couple of key performers, Liverpool’s incredibly consistent results suggest they’ll find a way to win in the end. On that basis, I’ll back Liverpool to qualify and both teams to score on the Sportsbook’s Bet Builder at 2.0421/20. That’ll see us win even if Forest take it to extra time after a score draw, but Liverpool eventually triumph.
The Reds have conceded goals in this competition against Shrewsbury, Cardiff and Norwich, and I’d put the Forest attack ahead of all three of those sides. Forest have scored in 13 of their last 14 competitive games, and at home they have scored at least twice in each of their last eight outings.
Diamond Diaz can strike
Colombian international winger Luis Diaz has been a revelation since arriving from Porto in the winter transfer window, and with Salah struggling, we may see him start this game. I’m surprised to see Diaz priced at 2.56/4 to score at any time, and if you want to be a little more conservative, you can back him to have two or more shots on target at 1.834/5.
For Forest, 20-year-old Brennan Johnson is worth keeping an eye on. He found the net against QPR, and has scored in five of his last nine appearances. He is 2.01/1 to have a shot on target and 5.59/2 to score.