Rude not to back Zenit

  • By: Andy Schooler
  • Last Updated: February 21 2013, 18:54 GMT

Zenit St Petersburg look a big price to win at Liverpool in the Europa League on Thursday night, according to Andy Schooler.

Zenit: Capable of a win at Anfield
Zenit: Capable of a win at Anfield

We've opposed Liverpool on many an occasion this season but make no apologies for doing so again for Thursday's Europa League clash with Zenit St Petersburg.

At the prices, it simply seems wrong not to.

The Reds start at Anfield trailing 2-0 from last week's first leg in Russia so clearly have a big task on their hands.

Perhaps blinded by memories of European comebacks against St Etienne and Olympiacos, the bookies have Liverpool no better than 7/10 to win the second game but that's not a price that makes appeal.

Effectively Liverpool are already behind and history shows this Reds team does not respond well to adversity.

Only once this season in the Premier League have Liverpool come from behind to win, while when conceding the first goal (which you can say they have essentially already done here) they are W1 D5 L9.

Liverpool clearly have to come out at some point but Zenit, who boast talents such as Hulk and Aleksandr Kerzhakov, showed last week that they can play on the break.

If they do grab the opener, not only do Liverpool have that history to battle but surely heads would go down as they would then need four, taking the away-goals rule into account.

Liverpool may have bounced back to winning ways in style against Swansea on Sunday with a 5-0 victory but it should be noted that Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho are ineligible for this tie, while Martin Skrtel is a major fitness doubt. Results have already shown that Sturridge is badly missed when he does not play - and we've wisely highlighted his importance in previous previews.

All in all, the 9/2 about Zenit following in the footsteps of Udinese, who won here in the group stages earlier in the season, has to be worth a small punt.

Looking elsewhere, for those who like their sequences we have to mention that Gareth Bale has now scored Tottenham's last six goals - a fact which immediately should get lights flashing.

However, if you want to back him at Lyon - a game which seems unlikely to produce a hatful of away goals - surely the way to go is to back Bale in the first Spurs scorer market.

The Welsh wonder, who played well into the forward line last week, has 17 for the season now and in the continued absence of Jermain Defoe he looks their main goal threat. Emmanuel Adebayor has just three goals for his club this season and is currently on a run of one goal in his last 10 games.

However, it is a bet in the Chelsea game - they host Sparta Prague - that appeals more.

A late Oscar goal saw Chelsea win 1-0 in the Czech capital last week and expecting another late strike in this one looks a solid play.

There is 10/11 that there is a goal after the 73rd minute - something that has happened in Chelsea's last six games and six of their seven European matches this season.

Sparta are yet to resume their domestic campaign following the long winter break so fitness levels may not be at their best.

They also look massively up against it for Chelsea have had their scoring boots on of late, smashing four past both Brentford and Wigan at the Bridge in the past fortnight.

Being a goal down, the Czechs have to try to do something against what is likely to be a blue tide - Chelsea have dominated possession against most opponents this season with several of their recent possession percentages being in the late 50s or even the 60s.

I'd expect them to win this by at least two clear goals.

In the goal markets, the aforementioned Oscar is worth considering as he now as three in his last six games.

His nimble frame seems better suited to the European style of play. He started five of Chelsea's six Champions League games this season and looks likely to start here with Rafa Benitez having vowed to give Frank Lampard a rest. However, you may want to wait to see whether he definitely starts or not before backing him at 21/10 (BetVictor) in the anytime market.

The other English side in action are Newcastle, who drew the first leg against Metalist Kharkiv 0-0 at St James' Park.

The score draw in Ukraine will take them through which makes odds-against quotes about them qualifying for the last 16 look tempting.

However, again it will surely be in your best interests to wait for the team news. Alan Pardew's men are just four points outside the Premier League relegation zone and have a crunch clash with Southampton to come on Sunday.

Unlikely to win this competition, it wouldn't be a big surprise to see many big guns rested so I'm swerving this one and sticking with my bets on Zenit and a late goal at Chelsea.


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