Matt Brocklebank looks ahead to a fantastic night in the Champions League with Liverpool, Man City and Spurs all in action.
Some sumptuous match-ups, including all three games featuring Premier League sides, should make for a hugely entertaining night in the Champions League on Wednesday and the first thing that strikes is that Feyenoord are over-priced when they take on Manchester City in Rotterdam.
After another strong start to the campaign, City will be desperate to avoid Champions League football causing them to come off the rails, as it seemingly did following a 3-3 draw against Celtic last September, and on paper they should have too much experience and quality for the Dutch champions.
Saturday’s 5-0 stroll over Liverpool will also give City plenty of confidence as they return to the European fray, but Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side look to have been under-estimated.
That Eredivisie title victory came as a bit of a shock after they had finished 20-odd points adrift of PSV and Ajax in the standings the year before, but they got the job done in entertaining fashion having outscored their two major rivals, while this season gives the impression they are asserting themselves as the new team to beat in the Netherlands.
Unlike City, who were held at home by Everton last month, they’ve won four from four domestically this term and have continued in the same vein as last year with nine goals scored in their last two.
City have been relatively tight at the back but did concede at Bournemouth, as well as the aforementioned home game with Everton, and the Liverpool result ultimately papered over one or two cracks that appeared in the early exchanges at the Etihad, when Mohamed Salah in particular seemed able to run through on goal at will down the right.
It may be the case that City’s likely dominance in central midfield sees Kyle Walker and Danilo press the home side back into their shells, but this is a team that likes to attack, as Man United found out when beaten 1-0 in the Europa League here last season.
The in-form Feyenoord winger Steven Berghuis looks a key threat and with Claudio Bravo potentially coming in for Ederson due to his weekend injury, and doubts still surrounding John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as a pairing (Vincent Kompany still out), there has to be hope for the confident hosts.
I’ll be backing them double chance at odds in excess of 2/1, while both teams to score in this one and the game at Anfield between Liverpool and Sevilla rates a sporting double.
I wasn’t privy to to Jurgen Klopp’s half-time team talk on Saturday but avoiding picking up any more suspensions, and not over-committing in the tackle, looked high on the agenda in the second period following Sadio Mane’s dismissal and no doubt that has been written off as an unfortunate day at the office.
Wednesday gives them a good chance to hit straight back under the lights in front of a packed Anfield crowd so be sure to expect the attacking, pressing intensity to return immediately.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could be set for his first start and he’ll be eager to make an impression, while Philippe Coutinho may even be gently reintroduced at some point, but it’s not Liverpool’s ability to create and convert chances that concerns me, rather their sub-standard defensive unit.
It’s impossible to say what their very best back four is at present and the goalkeeper situation is going to rumble on until they bring in a standout number one. Either way, it’s hard to enthuse over them as 4/6 favourites against in-form Spanish outfit Sevilla, especially after conceding in both legs of the Hoffenheim play-off.
Going back to Liverpool’s last sighting in the Champions League group stages, they shipped goals in home ties with Ludogorets and Basel, as well as that 3-0 defeat to a Ronaldo-inspired Real Madrid, while their previous appearance in the 2009/10 competition saw them concede at home to Lyon and Fiorentina – managing just a 1-0 victory over Debrecen on home soil.
So for all their European history it’s a long time since the club really impressed on this particular stage and the only time they’ve met Sevilla saw the LaLiga side win 3-1 in the Europa League final last May.
Tottenham look better equipped to start with a confidence-boosting win, for all they face what appear to be the most daunting opposition on paper in Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund have made themselves at home in Europe over the last few seasons and just bumped into an exceptionally talented Monaco side in the quarter-finals of the Champions League last year.
They’ve started well in the Bundesliga this time around with two wins and a draw but long-standing injuries to the influential Marco Reus, Raphael Guerreiro and Andre Schurrle aren’t helping matters, while captain Marcel Schmelzer and defender Marc Bartra have joined them on the injury list ahead of Wednesday’s clash.
Spurs will be without the suspended Dele Alli as they look to banish their Wembley hoodoo but I’m not completely sold on that notion just yet and with Real Madrid still to come in Group H, there is an obvious extra incentive to get points on the board early.
Harry Kane has emerged from his annual August blank with two goals at the weekend and Alli’s absence could result in Heung-min Son getting his second start of the season.
Those keen for a wager could do worse than Son in the anytime market around 2/1. One of his 21 Spurs goals last season came in their Champions League group stage clash with CSKA Moscow 12 months ago and it’s worth noting his track record against Dortmund.
The former Bayer Leverkusen man knows Wednesday’s opposition well having featured in six games against them, in which he scored five times.