BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Classic clash on the cards at Estadio do Dragao

Champions League last-16 first leg
BT Sport 2, 7.45pm Wednesday

The first leg of the first knockout stage of the Champions League ought to be the cue for a cagey affair, but you get the sense that whenever Liverpool set foot on the pitch there will be goals.

It doesn't always happen, of course, but the market suggests thrills, spills and goals galore at the Estadio do Dragao and it's probably right.

Liverpool have headed to Portugal following a competent defensive effort at Southampton, where they won 2-0. But the impotent Saints don't compare to Primeira Liga leaders Porto, who are every bit as forward-thinking as Jurgen Klopp's men.

Both teams average over 2.5 goals per game in league and European assignments this term and this match is set to follow suit. Back the over 2.5 with both teams finding the net at evens with BoyleSports.

Porto and Liverpool are in fine form. Sergio Conceicao’s men are setting the pace in Portugal, where they are unbeaten, while Liverpool are the one team who have beaten Manchester City in the Premier League and are very easy on the eye.

The Reds have scored at least two goals in 11 of their last 12 and tend to be at it from the off. They’ve bagged 27 first-half goals in 27 league matches and notched 13 first-half goals in their six Group E games, a section they topped ahead of Seville.

Their four away games in the competition have yielded an almighty 18 goals – the 4-5 over 2.5 goals looks pretty good value but there’s definitely a case for chancing over 3.5 at 2-1.

Those who think there may not be a goal feast might argue that the first leg is all about clever sparring and making sure the tie is still alive heading back to Merseyside. It sounds logical, yet interestingly five of the eight first-leg ties at this corresponding stage 12 months ago produced four goals or more.

Porto know that Liverpool, with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino in irresistible form, are going to be hard to stop over 90 minutes, never mind 180. Equally, Klopp won’t change his approach and nor should he given how unimpressive his rearguard can be.

Porto, two-time European champions, have serious worries at the back with Felipe banned and his partner Ivan Marcano a major doubt. Liverpool’s frontmen will be licking their lips if the hosts have to pair Diego Reyes with newboy Yordan Osorio.

Full-backs Alex Telles and Ricardo Pereira like to get forward and put in crosses while Yacine Brahimi is the assist-king of the Portuguese top flight.

They scored 15 goals in six Group G qualifiers but conceded ten, finishing with ten points behind Besiktas.

In each of their three home ties, both teams scored and there were at least four goals.

Given that Mohamed Salah has scored in 15 of his last 20 matches the Egyptian has to be considered at 13-8 with Paddy Power to score at any time. 

Recommendation
Both teams to score & over 2.5 goals

2pts

 

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Match in Focus

19:45 Sa 26May

Real Madrid v Liverpool

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Real have won just one of their last four Champions League meetings against English opposition
Expert verdict
Real Madrid have lifted the Champions League in three of the past four seasons but they could struggle to retain their crown against a lively Liverpool. Real have been the dominant force in Europe, with last year’s 4-1 thumping of Juventus in the final in Cardiff showcasing their superiority. However, Zinedine Zidane’s men have not bumped into a front three like the Reds’ often - Mo Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have netted 29 of their 40 Champions League goals this season - and they are vulnerable to the counter-attack.