Manchester City v Porto: Expect goals at both ends

Manchester City should win their Champions League opener, says Andy Schooler, but Porto can make things difficult for them on Wednesday night.

Manchester City v Porto
Wednesday October 21, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 3

Defensive concerns remain at City

"We're still a little bit away from our best performance," was Pep Guardiola's assessment after Manchester City's 1-0 victory over Arsenal.

Agreed.

What I wasn't so sure about was his verdict that "we defended very well".

Arsenal created good chances and really should have taken something out of the game. They may well have done had a high boot in the penalty area by Kyle Walker been punished.

Guardiola opted to praise new boys Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake after their first game together in defence, although once again the manager opted to tweak his formation in the absence of Aymeric Laporte, going with a back three and playing Joao Cancelo in a midfield position.

Laporte, defensive colleague Benjamin Mendy and midfield creator Kevin de Bruyne all look set to miss out again here, while striker Gabriel Jesus remains a long-term absentee.

At least Sergio Aguero returned at the weekend, playing for the first time in four months, although with City now into a hectic two-games-a-week schedule - one which includes matches with West Ham and Marseille inside the six days which follow this contest - it would be no surprise to see the Argentine only on the bench here.

Those injuries have ensured that, despite their vast resources, City have endured a tricky start to the season, one which has seen them lose 5-2 at home to Leicester and also drop points at Leeds.

They will be keen to avoid an such early slip-ups in the Champions League, although they were famously beaten 2-1 at the Etihad in their opener two seasons ago by Lyon, the same side who knocked them out in the quarter-finals in August.

Visitors won't sit back

Like Lyon, Porto will be prepared to have a go - don't expect the Portuguese double winners to set out solely to contain.

Boss Sergio Conceicao, a winger at Inter Milan and Lazio in his playing days, has an attacking philosophy and his side have been the top scorers in the Primeira Liga in two of his three seasons at the helm.

The problem is, does he have the personnel to carry out the job?

'I don't see City as credible favourites' - read Kevin Hatchard's team-by-team CL verdict

Alex Telles (Man Utd), rising star Fabio Silva (Wolves), Danilo Pereira (PSG) and last season's top scorer Tiquinho (Tianjin TEDA in China) are among those to have left the club in recent weeks.

Conceicao knows selling talent is part of the job at the Estadio do Dragao and he has brought in replacements - West Ham loanee Felipe Anderson among them - but he admitted after Saturday's 2-2 draw at Sporting Lisbon that his new recruits were "not fully integrated yet", explaining why they hadn't been trusted with starting spots.

That draw came hot on the heels of a 3-2 home defeat to Maritimo so after just four games of their title defence, Porto trail great rivals Benfica by five points.

They continue to offer a threat going forward - Moussa Morega is a dangerous leader of an attack well served by Sergio Oliveira and Jesus Corona - but defensively they've conceded too many in the absence of long-term injury victim Ivan Marcano.

Eye up BTTS angle

That helps point the way to my best bet.

Both teams have scored in three of Porto's four matches this term and taking in the back end of last season, that's now occurred in six of their last seven games.

The BTTS angle is also highlighted in the historical stats with 21 of Porto's 28 European games under Conceicao having landed this bet.

For City, their last seven in Europe have seen both sides fund the net (those teams have included Dinamo Zagreb and Shakhtar Donetsk). Going back further, Guardiola's home games in this competition at City have seen BTTS land in 12 of 19. Even in the group stage, it's a decent seven of 12.

City scraped a clean sheet on Saturday, just, but four of their five other games this season saw both teams score, again showing that their defence is far from watertight, as was the case throughout last season. It's almost become a cliche, but Laporte is a big miss.

Both teams to score can be backed here at 1.73, certainly better than over 2.5 goals which is its usual short price in a City game - 1.4 on this occasion.

Boost City from odds-on to 2.6

Given their injury problems and long-standing defensive issues, neither can I be getting with City at short prices to win the match (1.32) or in other markets such as handicaps or goals.

In fact, a case could be made to side with Porto in some shape or form. They are 10.5 for the upset but their worrying defensive record is a major concern for potential backers.

Instead the best value looks to be to back City to win with both teams scoring at 2.6.

With Raheem Sterling, Aguero, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva all available, City should still have enough in their locker to claim the points but Porto's positive approach may well see them put their name on the ever-expanding list of teams to have scored at the Etihad.

Opta fact

This will be Porto's 21st away game against English opponents in European competition, while they are still looking for their first such victory (D3 L17).

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