Liverpool v Porto: Back Reds to take full control
Liverpool were handed arguably the best quarter-final draw in the Champions League and Andy Schooler fully expects them to establish a first-leg lead against Porto...
"Pepe’s absence in particular is a concern given left-back Alex Telles has also been out injured for the last few weeks... the defensive rejig has to be a worry ahead of a game in which they must deal with Mo Salah – finally back in the goals again on Friday - Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, who has scored seven times in his last seven games."
Liverpool v Porto
Live on BT Sport 3
For all the talk of a possible Manchester City Quadruple, it's easy to forget the next two months could see this season turn into one of Liverpool's most memorable.
And given their history, that's saying something.
Jurgen Klopp's men head into Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg - a tie they are hot favourites for - atop the Premier League. A terrific Double, achieved twice before by the Reds but not since 1984, is still very much on.
Of course, it remains a tough challenge, not least because of Man City, but it's fair to say few expect their hopes to founder on this particular rock.
Liverpool won 5-0 away to Porto in last season's competition and they head into this game unbeaten in 14 in all competitions.
They did struggle through the group stage, although they did have arguably the toughest pool to negotiate, finishing second to Paris Saint-Germain and just ahead of Napoli.
They lost all three away games but put that issue to bed with a highly-impressive 3-1 victory at Bayern Munich in the last round.
Their main concern for this match comes as a result of what happened in Munich - Andy Robertson picked up a late yellow card meaning he's ruled out of the first leg. Alberto Moreno looks as like-for-like as Klopp has at his disposal.
Aside from that, little has changed in terms of Liverpool's options with the only news positive - Joe Gomez is back in training although he hasn't yet returned to competitive action so it's hard to see him starting this one.
Defensive problems for Porto
Porto also have suspension issues for the contest with both former Real Madrid centre-back Pepe and midfielder Hector Herrera banned.
Pepe's absence in particular is a concern given left-back Alex Telles has also been out injured for the last few weeks.
Usual right-back Eder Militao, who will join Pepe's old club in the summer, is likely to fill in at centre-back but the whole defensive rejig has to be a worry ahead of a game in which they must deal with Mo Salah - finally back in the goals again on Friday - Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, who has scored seven times in his last seven games.
The Reds' front three all scored in that 5-0 win last season with Mane leading the way with a hat-trick.
Porto, who have never won away to an English side in 18 attempts (losing 15), do at least carry a threat going forward with the obvious one to watch being Mali international Moussa Marega, who has scored in his last six Champions League games.
Their domestic season has some remarkable similarities to that of their hosts.
They are also in a nailbiting title race, trailing Benfica only on goal difference. While Liverpool have lost only once all season - to title rivals City - Porto have lost only once since October 7. The opposition? Benfica.
Also similar is the two sides' away record against the other top-six teams in their league.
Both have only won one of those five matches but with all due respect to the Primeira Liga, that's where the comparison should end. All five of Liverpool's domestic rivals remain in Europe, three of them in this very competition. In contrast, only Benfica (in the Europa League) are also still flying the Portuguese flag.
Away from home in the Champions League, Porto did manage to beat both Lokomotiv Moscow and Galatasaray in what was the weakest of the eight groups, but they only drew at Schalke - a side who have just shipped 10 across two games with Man City - and then lost to a Roma side arguably weaker than the one dismantled by Liverpool at Anfield last season.
Reds hot favourites
Those away results are further evidence that Porto could be in for a tough night.
The match odds suggest so too with Liverpool predictably short at just [1.32] for the win.
The draw is offered at  and a Porto upset victory , but I'm struggling to make a case for either actually happening.
As for the goal lines, again it's hardly surprising to see over 2.5 at [1.68]. Some will think that's actually value given it's got a bit of 'first-leg factor' built into it.
You don't often get [2.36] about under 2.5 in a first leg of a Champions League knockout tie and Liverpool did finish goalless against Bayern at Anfield in the last round.
Still, I prefer a bet which strongly fits the evidence I've presented about Porto having problems with the opposition, their own defence and on their travels.
Namely, that is Liverpool to cover a one-goal handicap.
The hosts' frontline should relish facing a reshuffled defence, particularly after what happened 14 months ago and [1.89] on the -1 handicap line looks perfectly fair.
I wouldn't even be too concerned if Porto are able to continue their record of scoring in every Champions League game this season - Liverpool have put three past PSG, Red Star and Bayern in the competition already.
Same Game Multi
At first glance, this may seem a bit of a mug bet, but backing Salah, Firmino and Mane all to score at 8.17 has some merit.
As pointed out above, all three scored away to Porto last season. At Anfield in 2017/18, the trio managed the feat in two of five Champions League games in which they all started (including the semi-final v Roma) and four of the 13 Premier League matches.
They've been less successful in landing the bet in the current campaign but have still done so three times at Anfield, including in two of their last seven at the ground.
Given the potential for this to turn into a bit of a cakewalk, it's worth a go.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has scored 69% of his Champions League goals in the knockout stages of the competition (nine of 13). Of players with at least 10 goals, only Ivica Olic (7/10 - 70%) has a higher such percentage in Champions League history.
Andy Schooler's P/L 2018/19
2pts Liverpool (-1) to win @ 1.89