Salzburg v Liverpool: Reds to edge thrilling fixture
Defending champions Liverpool must avoid defeat in Salzburg on Tuesday evening to secure their place in the Champions League knockout stages. Mark O'Haire previews the encounter in Austria.
Salzburg v Liverpool Tuesday December 10, 17:55 BT Sport
Salzburg warmed up for Tuesday night's tie with a comprehensive 5-1 shellacking of newly-promoted WSG Wattens on home soil. Die Mozartstädter were two goals up inside 10 minutes through Patson Daka and in-demand Erling Haaland before Masaya Okugawa added a third before the break. Takumi Minamino and Andreas Ulmer completed the rout.
Jesse Marsch's men now turn their attention towards continental duty as the Austrians hunt a first-ever qualification to the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition. Salzburg have already smashed Genk (6-2) here at the Red Bull Arena but were unfortunate 3-2 losers when Napoli arrived having dominated the Expected Goals (xG) tally 2.71 to 0.88.
The hosts have notched 16 goals in their first five group games - only Bayern Munich (21) and Tottenham (17) have scored more - since 2003-04, the most goals scored by a side in the group stage to be eliminated is 16 (by Chelsea in 2012-13). Die Mozartstädter will be spearheaded by Haaland, the 19-year-old has 28 goals in 21 club appearances in 2019/20.
Liverpool in fine fettle
Liverpool moved 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 win at Bournemouth on Saturday. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, one of seven changes for the Reds, opened the scoring after a brilliant long-range pass from Jordan Henderson. Naby Keita doubled the advantage before the break with Mohamed Salah wrapping things up.
Jurgen Klopp's side are now enjoying a club-record 33 league games without defeat, securing top honours in 15 of their 16 Premier League outings this term. There is an air of invincibility about Liverpool domestically, as they continue to chase their first league title for 30 years, although matters aren't quite so straightforward for the Merseysiders in Europe.
Liverpool must avoid defeat in Salzburg to book their place in the Last 16 of the Champions League after dropping points in home and away games against Napoli. The defending champions are expected to restore Sadio Mane back in the starting XI for Tuesday's tussle after the Senegalese speedster was an unused substitute at the Vitality Stadium.
Reds vulnerable on the road
Liverpool won the reverse meeting between the two teams. It was a thrilling affair as the Reds raced into a 3-0 lead inside 36 minutes at Anfield before eventually clinching maximum points 4-3 on Matchday 2. The Merseysiders have W5-D1-L1 against Austrian outfits in Europe with their only loss against such opponents arriving back in 2004 against Grazer AK.
Salzburg4.00 have won 18 of their 25 matches this season in all competitions, with their only defeats coming against Liverpool and Napoli. Die Mozartstädter have proven victorious in 15 of their last 20 home games in European competition (W15-D4-L1), with that sole reverse coming against the Italians in that aforementioned dominant display in October.
Liverpool's1.90 almost flawless start to the Premier League season deserves immense credit, although the Reds have tabled only two triumphs in their most recent 11 away days in the Champions League group stage (W2-D3-L6). The visitors have surprisingly been beaten in four of their most recent five games as guests at this stage of the competition.
Goals forecast in Austria
It's difficult to oppose goals on Tuesday considering the state of play in the pool, plus the body of work by both teams in this term's Champions League. Neither Salzburg nor Liverpool have kept a continental clean sheet thus far with the two teams combining to see an average of 4.33 goals per-game, Over 2.5 Goals1.41 landing on seven occasions in nine.
Liverpool picked up their first shutout in 14 fixtures on Saturday but look unlikely to silence an attack-minded Salzburg side here and so it makes sense to search for a goals-based angle of attack. Despite the Reds' recent travails on their travels in this competition, Jurgen Klopp's charges should have enough nous to secure the point they require for progression.
With that in mind, I'm happy to dip into Betfair Sportsbook's Same Game Multimarket where Over 2.5 Goals, Both Teams To Score and Liverpool Double Chance can be taken at 2.15.