The Champions League group stage comes to a close this week, and our football odds expert Adrian Clarke is across two matches that are at opposite ends of the importance scale.
Here are his views on the challenges that lie in wait for Liverpool and Spurs…
Liverpool v Spartak Moscow | 6 December 19:45
The Reds should already be chilling in the departure lounge for this season’s knockout stages, but after surrendering a 3-0 lead in Sevilla last time out there is still work to be done.
Victory in this last group encounter guarantees their safe passage as table toppers, a draw puts them through as well, but defeat could spell shock elimination.
The pressure is on.
Thankfully from a Liverpool perspective they couldn’t have cherry-picked better opponents for this final test.
Spartak Moscow are without an away win in Europe since the 2010/11 season, a run stretching back over ten futile road trips.
The Russians can be formidable on their home patch but don’t tend to travel well, so although the 13/1 on an away success is tempting, it is highly unlikely to land.
They’re also sat in fourth place right now in their own domestic league, so form is also an issue for Spartak.
This Liverpool side, on the other hand, is flying!
Unbeaten at Anfield in 12 matches, they have been irresistible since Spurs tore them apart at Wembley six wins and two draws ago.
“What he did around the goals is what excites me the most, to be honest.”
Klopp hails ‘annoying’ contributions from Firmino: https://t.co/0n1GJrlcFv pic.twitter.com/3AKiYRKlLh
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 4, 2017
Roberto Firmino (5 Champions League goals) and Mo Salah (4) are Liverpool’s talismen so far in the competition, but I sense this might be Sadio Mane’s night to shine underneath the lights. The brilliant winger was rested at the weekend and is appealing at 18/5 to score the first goal.
I just don’t see an upset here.
Jurgen Klopp possesses a deadly arsenal of attacking weapons that he can unleash at any time, and because his hitmen are all in decent form I’m picturing a confident, explosive start.
Once they break the deadlock there’s every chance they could run away with it.
My picks would be Liverpool/Liverpool at 8/13, and over 2.5 home goals, which is on offer at 4/5.
They may have prolonged their wait for top spot in the group, but it will be a major upset if they don’t manage to secure it on Wednesday night.
Tottenham Hotspur v Apoel Nicosia | 6 December 19:45
London-based Cypriots will rock up at Wembley Stadium in their droves to cheer on Apoel, who can finish third and qualify for the Europa League at Borussia Dortmund’s expense if they better the Germans’ result against Real Madrid.
For the underdogs, this will be a massive occasion.
Not so for Spurs though, who have already made it to the last 16 as group winners. Therefore this will be seen as the deadest of dead rubbers.
How will they approach it?
I imagine Mauricio Pochettino will rest most of his key man (who have looked very jaded in recent weeks) so this will be a night where his fringe players are asked to step up to the plate.
Considering this likely strategy I reckon Fernando Llorente is a decent shout to score, but at 7/10 you won’t get rich backing him.
Arsenal’s Europa League defeat to lowly Germans, FC Cologne proved how difficult it can be for ‘second strings’ to find their rhythm against teams that have something to play for – so I don’t see Tottenham as dead certs in this one.
We’re back in @ChampionsLeague action this Wednesday! 💪
Join us at @wembleystadium as we face APOEL in our final game of the group stage – https://t.co/cj2vf8ZhR8 #COYS pic.twitter.com/p2zpsgxqg9
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) December 4, 2017
The club’s general mood is low, there’s nothing but pride at stake, and some of the youngsters that will feature haven’t seen a lot of football recently.
This adds to up a possible shock in my opinion.
To me, backing Apoel or the Draw at 19/5 is a stand out selection.
If you want to find a potential gem in the goalscorers market you could do worse than taking a punt on striker Mickael Pote too.
He’s scored seven goals in his last 10 appearances and would love to make a name for himself beneath the Wembley arch.
I suspect this will be a strange evening for Spurs players and supporters. I wouldn’t be surprised if they came a cropper.
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