Liverpool host Atalanta in the Champions League on Wednesday in a 8pm kick-off at Anfield.
Having won their opening three fixtures without conceding a goal in Group D, a win for Liverpool against the Italians – who they thrashed 5-0 last time out – will secure safe passage through to the knockout stages with two games remaining.
Atalanta, meanwhile, risk slipping three points behind Ajax with a defeat, should the Dutch side beat FC Midtjylland at home as expected in the other game in the group.
Liverpool are 4/7 to beat last season’s surprise quarter-finalists, with the draw 18/5 and an Atalanta win 4/1.
Even with Jurgen Klopp’s side’s mounting injury list, the odds on Liverpool look more than fair given the disparity in quality between the two sides in the recent meeting at Atleti Azzurri d’Italia.
Since Project Restart in June, Liverpool have scored two or more goals in 15 of their 21 Premier League or Champions League matches, with only Burnley denying them managing that feat at Anfield when the league title had long since been wrapped up.
Atalanta have conceded two or more goals in six of their 11 Serie A or Champions League games this season, meanwhile, with their general form dipping since the dizzy heights they reached last season.
Indeed, the Italians have won just two of their last eight matches in all competitions, with those wins coming against Danish minnows Midtjylland and Serie A’s bottom-placed side Crotone.
Providing Klopp puts out a fairly strong team, then, I fancy Liverpool to score two or more, so will put Over 1 Goals for Liverpool as a starting point for our Bet Builder.
Spanish referee Carlos del Cerro Grande officiates the match at Anfield and, unlike some of his compatriots, he isn’t too flashy with cards in Europe. Indeed, he averages only 2.29 cards per game in the group stages of the competition, with his last six group stage matches all seeing fewer than four cards shown.
The last meeting between the two sides was a pretty clean game, with Liverpool picking up two cards which were both in quick succession and Atalanta receiving none, so I’m happy to give ourselves some wriggle room by adding Under 5 Cards for Both Teams Combined to bring our Bet Builder above evens:
The Spanish referee has shown at least one card in all of his 10 Champions League matches, though, so it’s certainly not worth ruling out the player cards market entirely.
Berat Djimsiti has received a booking in four of his nine matches in all competitions this season, as well as three in six Champions League games last season, making the 4/1 (Sky Bet) available on him look generous should he start. Djimsiti generally plays to the left side of Atalanta’s back three, so is likely to find it tough going stopping Mohamed Salah or Diogo Jota at full pace.
For the hosts, James Milner has two yellow cards in two European starts this season, so is only one booking away from a one-match ban in the competition. Should Liverpool find themselves winning comfortably, and thereby qualifying for the knockout stages, it could be worth the midfielder taking one for the team and sitting a match out early in the competition rather than risking missing a knockout match later down the line. Even putting that aside, 10/3 (bet365) is a good price for a player averaging 3.7 tackles and 1.7 fouls per game in this season’s competition.
In addition, I think 5/1 and 6/1 (both bet365) for Rhys and Neco Williams respectively are big prices for two young defenders if they come into the side as expected. Rhys Williams made four fouls in the previous meeting between the two sides, with Duvan Zapata a serious physical presence in attack.
Indeed, only Lionel Messi is averaging more shots per game than the Colombian striker in this season’s competition, with Zapata desperately unlucky not to score against Liverpool having struck the bar and tested Alisson on three occasions. He has had eight shots on target in three Champions League games, making 7/2 (Betfair) for him to have two or more at Anfield look appealing. 11/10 (Sky Bet) for Zapata to have three or more shots also looks good value.