Weblog: The football punter

Liverpool can land vital victory but it might not be enough

BT Sport 2, 8pm Tuesday

Liverpool can round off their Champions League Group C campaign with a narrow victory over Napoli - but their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage could still depend on Paris St-Germain failing to beat Red Star Belgrade in the Serbian capital.

Jurgen Klopp's side know a 1-0 success or a victory margin of two goals or more would see them through to the last 16, while any victory will be enough if Paris St-Germain fail to win in Belgrade.

But Napoli, unbeaten in five group matches, are unlikely to be easily swept aside and the Italians know a single-goal defeat, accompanied by at least one away goal, would give them the head-to-head advantage over Liverpool.

It is in Napoli's nature to play positively – they are the joint-highest scorers in Serie A with 32 goals in 15 matches. And, given the importance of scoring, they are unlikely to approach the game with a cautious mentality.

The stage is set for a thrilling, unpredictable encounter and the strong possibility of goals at both ends is reflected in the betting with both teams to score and over 2.5 goals on offer at heavily odds-on.

Liverpool warmed up with a 4-0 victory at Bournemouth and finished the weekend on top of the Premier League for the first time since September.

Their back four had an unfamiliar look on the south coast with James Milner filling in at right-back and Joel Matip making only his third league start of the season, deputising for Dejan Lovren, who was ruled out with a head injury.

But they were barely tested by a Bournemouth side who were lacking and confidence and denied the services of injured top-scorer Callum Wilson.

Liverpool and Matip, in particular, were less convincing when winning 3-1 at Burnley last Wednesday and there are questions over how they will cope with a talented Napoli attack.

Klopp's team lost 1-0 in Naples on matchday two and they could have no complaints after struggling in the second half.

There will be a different dynamic at Anfield, where Liverpool have won six of their last seven Champions League matches, but Napoli showed resilience and quality on the road when drawing 2-2 with Paris St-Germain in October and will be hopeful of playing to a similar standard.

Since losing 3-1 away to Juventus in September, they have put together a 12-match unbeaten run.

Like Liverpool, they warmed up in style, winning 4-0 at home to Frosinone.

Arkadiusz Milik impressed, bagging two goals, but he will likely make way for Dries Mertens, who usually plays up front with Lorenzo Insigne on Champions League nights.

The pair have netted three goals each in Group C and their clever movement is something Liverpool need to be aware of.

It is far from an insurmountable task for the Reds, who posted dominant home wins over Manchester City (3-0) and Roma (5-2) on the road to last season's final.

But there were less impressive results at home to Seville (2-2) and Porto (0-0) and much will depend on the early part of the game when the intensity of Liverpool's play is likely to be at its highest.

Napoli's challenge is to stay in the match as long as possible because they are too good a side to not have their moments in attack.

A narrow Liverpool win looks a likely outcome and, while that may not be enough for the Reds, it will do nicely for punters taking odds of 3-1 about a one-goal success for the home team.

Liverpool to win by one goal

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Match in Focus

15:00 Sa 25May SKY

Newport Co v Tranmere

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Newport are unbeaten in 12 matches.
Expert verdict
Michael Flynn’s Newport headed into the playoffs as the fourth tier’s form side, securing seventh spot by finishing the season ten games unbeaten. Tranmere will know all too well about County’s disciplined defensive, having failed to score in both league meetings with them and, even with James Norwood leading the line, they look vulnerable.