World Cup watch: Sterling shines, Costa and Toure are injury doubts
Raheem Sterling, odds-on with Coral at 1/4 to make England’s World Cup squad, showed composure way beyond his tender years to net the opener as Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-2 at Anfield.
This absorbing encounter, which could well have a massive say in who ultimately wins the Premier League title, gave attending Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson food for thought.
National captain Steven Gerrard notched up yet another assist from his deeper-lying midfield berth, while dependable James Milner (2/5 to be at the World Cup) came off the bench and helped City battle back to 2-2.
Joe Hart pulled off a fantastic reaction stop from fellow England regular Gerrard at 1-0, so the only international player to endure a disappointing afternoon was Jordan Henderson. The Reds midfielder saw red for a late lunge near the end on Samir Nasri, and will thus miss the next three matches for Brendan Rodgers.
“I feel 21 again, playing with all these top players” Gerrard exclaimed in the aftermath of this famous Liverpool win. Hodgson’s roster will be announced in mid-May, and anticipation is building. England remain third-favourites to top Group D at 2/1, but are still odds-on to reach the knockout phase at 8/15.
City’s Ivorian midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure may have played his last club game of the campaign, however, after limping off in the first half at Anfield.
“I think it will be difficult for him to finish playing this season,” Manuel Pellegrini said, so Toure may be lacking match fitness ahead of going to Brazil with his country.
Yaya, and his brother Kolo Toure (an unused substitute for Liverpool), join former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba as mainstays of the Ivory Coast’s spine, so his injury is cause for concern. The Elephants are second-favourites to win (4/1), or get out (evens) of Group C, which also contains Colombia, Greece and Japan.
Finally, Brazilian-born Spain cap Diego Costa survived an injury scare as he collided with the post while scoring for club side Atletico Madrid. He is 25/1 with Coral to be top scorer at the World Cup.
Manager Diego Simeone moved to allay fears, however, insisting star striker Costa is “fine”. Tabloid rumours persist that he is on the verge of agreeing a big money move to Chelsea, which could cost the Blues a reported £50m.
Vicente del Bosque will be most relieved to hear 34-goal Costa is not seriously injured. The Spain boss, who is 7/1 to retain the World Cup trophy, knows his other options, including Fernando Torres and Alvaro Negredo, are suffering from poor form.
La Roja are odds-on favourites both to win their pool, Group B, at 4/6, and to qualify from it at 1/8. They face Australia, former colony Chile and 2010 finalists the Netherlands.