Paul Higham has the pick of Wednesday's Champions League ties as Liverpool and Chelsea look to bounce back from opening night defeats.
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Liverpool v FC Red Bull Salzburg
8pm - BT Sport 3
It may look like a free hit for the defending European champions at Anfield, but this Salzburg side will arrive in Liverpool determined to produce another fine showing, and have one of the most talked about young strikers in Europe right now.
Salzburg’s eye-catching 6-2 win against Genk in their Champions League opener raised a few eyebrows, as did the hat-trick from Norwegian teenager Erling Haland – who has bagged 17 goals in just 12 games this season.
He’s 2/1 best price to notch at Anfield as the leading Salzburg threat, and a goal threat is something they certainly carry with their games usually full of them – ten out of 11 in fact that have gone over the coveted 2.5 goal mark and a whopping nine going over 3.5 goals.
That should be music to heavy odd-on favourites Liverpool as it sounds like the Austrians will come to play, and an open game would be right up Salah, Mane and Firmino’s street. Firmino may be the one man to get a rest in this game though, so watch the team-sheet as Divock Origi could get a rare start.
Salzburg’s gaudy goal-scoring exploits have bookies running scared and they’re odds-on to score at Anfield, and although there’s a chance they’re being over-cautious, they’ve done enough to stop us going for a home win to nil.
The Reds should win cosily enough, and I’ve got my doubts Salzburg will score as there have been more experienced teams than this who have frozen in the headlights of an Anfield European night – so we’re plumping for an early Reds lead as the way to go.
Key Opta stats
- Liverpool haven’t lost at Anfield in European competition since October 2014 vs Real Madrid in the Champions League (0-3) – since then they’ve won 16 and drawn six times.
- FC Salzburg have only lost once in their last 17 away group stage games in Europe, all of which came in the Europa League (W12 D4 L1), falling to a 1-3 defeat at Schalke in September 2016.
- Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has found the net with just three of his last 49 attempts at goal in the Champions League, attempting five shots without success on MD1 against Napoli.
- Jurgen Klopp has never lost at Anfield as Liverpool manager in European competition (P 19 - W15 D4 L0) – only Bob Paisley (29) has managed more games without ever losing at home with the Reds.
Lille v Chelsea
8pm - BT Sport 2
The Stade Pierre Mauroy does not stick out as one of Europe's toughest away days, but Lille have won four out of four there this season and will continue Frank Lampard's young Chelsea side's European education in this one.
The French side fielded the youngest starting XI in the competition in matchday one, and they too lost their opener, 3-0 to Ajax, who look the team to beat in the group, so both sides are looking to kick-start their campaign here.
Chelsea's defence is a worry going up against the lively Victor Osimhen, who has scored six goals in eight games, and it'd be no surprise if he gets on the scoresheet again - he's 2/1 to find the net.
Lampard is just looking like getting to grips with life as Chelsea boss, and his side are starting to click into gear, but away days in the Champions League are a different story and although you can see them avoiding defeat, they may have to settle for a draw.
Best bet: Lille to draw with Chelsea at 5/2
Key Opta stats
- Lille are winless in eight Champions League home matches (D3 L5), since beating AEK Athens in October 2006 (3-1). Prior to this run, Lille were unbeaten in the first eight home matches in the competition (W3 D5).
- Lille have conceded 16 goals in their last seven UEFA Champions League games (2.3 per game) – in their first 26 games, they conceded only 22 goals (0.8 per game).
- The two teams with the most shots on MD1 of the Champions League without scoring were Chelsea (22) and Lille (17).
- Frank Lampard is only the sixth Englishman to manage in the UEFA Champions League and he could become the second to lose his first two matches in the competition, after Ray Harford in September 1995 with Blackburn Rovers.
Barcelona v Inter Milan
8pm - BT Sport ESPN
Inter Milan were the wildcards in pot three of the Champions League draw and that sets up a tasty fixture at the Camp Nou, which sees Barca struggling somewhat after a shaky start to the season by their high standards - down in no small part to the injury problems for Lionel Messi.
Messi may well feature but, if he's out, that will give Inter a huge chance to bounce back from a bitterly disappointing draw with Slavia Prague on matchday one. They've had a perfect start in Serie A and top the table ahead of a dominant Juventus, and they've also scored in every outing so far so represent a decent threat going forward.
Romelu Lukaku and Inter represent Barca's toughest test yet, and they've hardly come through the others with flying colours despite winning all three at home - and he's got a great chance of finding the net here. Messi's availability would sway me on a home win but until he's named in the line-up, taking the former Man Utd man to bag a goal is the best option.
Key Opta stats
- Barcelona have won 29 of their last 32 Champions League games at the Camp Nou (D3), with their last defeat dating back to May 2013 against Bayern Munich (0-3).
- Barcelona have failed to score in their last two UEFA Champions League matches – they have never gone three games without a goal in the competition. They last failed to score in three European games in a row in March 1988 in the UEFA Cup.
- Barcelona had just seven shots in their MD1 goalless draw with Borussia Dortmund, their fewest in a UEFA Champions League group stage match since December 2015 against Bayer Leverkusen (6).
- Internazionale’s Nicolò Barella is looking to become only the fourth Italian player to score in consecutive UEFA Champions League appearances for the club, after Roberto Baggio (1998), Christian Vieri (2003) and Giampaolo Pazzini (2011).
Wednesday's Champions League fixtures
- KRC Genk v Napoli
- Slavia Prague v Borussia Dortmund
- Barcelona v Internazionale
- Lille v Chelsea
- Liverpool v FC Red Bull Salzburg
- RB Leipzig v Lyon
- Valencia v Ajax
- Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica
Odds correct as of 1645 on 01/10/19
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