Porto v Liverpool: Reds to dominate again and cruise into semi-finals
Liverpool eased past Porto last week and can ensure they progress to the Champions League semi-finals in Wednesday's return leg, says Andy Schooler.
"I’d expect Liverpool to score in the first half and if they have managed to keep Porto out, the heads of the home players will surely go down."
Porto v Liverpool
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"Porto looked, at best, like a middle-to-bottom Premier League side".
Those were the words of European Cup winner Mark Lawrenson after he witnessed Liverpool's 2-0 first-leg victory at Anfield and while he may not be the most respected pundit in the world, those who watched the game knew where he was coming from.
Liverpool got in front early, as they so often do, and took firm control after going 2-0 up before the half-hour mark.
Porto did create a few chances, but Liverpool were largely in command and looked perfectly happy to protect their lead in the closing stages.
Without an away goal, Porto face a massive task now. Liverpool have actually failed to score on six occasions this season - three of them in the Champions League - but the shut-outs have often been a result of opponents sitting in and aiming to frustrate.
That can't happen here, at least for the whole game, as Porto flop out miserably in such circumstances.
They will have a go and the fact that they did create a few chances for striker Moussa Marega will give them a glimmer of hope. He had scored in six consecutive Champions League games before last week's trip to Anfield where he carried the visitors' biggest goal threat by a distance.
The other good news for the hosts is that experienced defender Pepe, once of Real Madrid, and captain Hector Herrera are available again after missing the first leg through suspension.
Porto will therefore cling to hope that they can make it five wins out of five at home in this season's competition. It should be pointed out though that the opposition has been weak in the grand scheme of things - Roma, Schalke, Lokomotiv Moscow and Galatasaray.
Of course, you can only beat those put in front of you but the evidence of Anfield suggests this is a major step up for them.
Liverpool bring the confidence of a 16-match unbeaten run, a period which has seen them win 3-1 at Bayern Munich to put to bed a poor away run in this competition.
They've won their last seven. The most recent, at home to Chelsea on Sunday, was a significant step towards the Premier League title and they must simply be buzzing right now. All this ahead of a return to a ground they won 5-0 at only 14 months ago.
Sadio Mane, who bagged a hat-trick that night, has eight goals in his last nine games, Mo Salah is scoring again - and how - while Jurgen Klopp also gets Andy Robertson back from a ban for this one.
Given the situation in the tie, Klopp can be expected to pick a solid midfield set up to thwart the hosts, particularly in the early stages. Frustrating them - and their fans - early on could be key. It looks an ideal game for the trusted James Milner, with Fabinho and possibly Jordan Henderson also involved.
The feared front three have been devastating on the break for two years now and they will be tasked with grabbing the away goal which would silence those fans inside the Estadio do Dragao.
Expect it to happen.
Liverpool are [2.16] to win the second leg which is a tempting price - you don't that about them too often these days.
The draw is at [3.6] with Porto [3.8] to notch a win on the night.
Goal line toss up
As for the goal lines, it's pretty much a pick 'em between over and under 2.5.
Given Liverpool don't need to flood forward in their usual style - and almost certainly won't let the handbrake off completely - I'd side with the unders side of that argument.
There's every chance that if they do score first, they will look to manage their way through the rest of game, knowing full well that more huge games await in the coming weeks, starting at Cardiff on Sunday.
Strike early, then manage
It is that theory which forms part of my argument for the bet I am actually putting up - namely Liverpool/Liverpool in the half-time/full-time market.
Liverpool's superior quality can weather any early storm - indeed such an approach from the hosts could well play into their fast-breaking hands.
I'd expect them to score in the first half and if they have managed to keep Porto out, the heads of the home players will surely go down. They will know they have next to know chance of scoring four on the night.
If Liverpool are indeed ahead at the break, the second half could be something of a non-event with thoughts on both sides turning to domestic title races - Porto also have a key game on Saturday when they host eighth-placed Santa Clara. Benfica lead the table on the sides' head-to-head record.
That makes odds of 23/10 appeal.
An alternative approach could be to back the first half to be the highest-scoring one at 2/1 but I'll go with the former with another comfortable evening for the Reds expected.
Same Game Multi
Given what I've written, I've pulled together a tempting treble at 8.35 - Liverpool to be leading at half time, Porto under 0.5 goals in the second half and under 2.5 goals in the match.
Since the start of last season, Liverpool have won three of their four away Champions League knockout games, only losing to Roma in last season's semi-final (4-2).
Andy Schooler's P/L 2018/19