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Champions League Preview, Nov 1st.

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Selections

Liverpool vs Napoli

Liverpool booked their place in the Champions League knockout phase last week with a 3-0 away win over Ajax.

It was a clinical performance from Jurgen Klopp’s men but they offered Ajax a number of chances before Mo Salah fired them ahead. The result provided some welcome relief for the Reds, whose domestic issues got worse with a home defeat to Leeds over the weekend.

Incredibly, Liverpool have now conceded the first goal in seven of their 12 Premier League matches and also in two of their five Champions League games this term.

Napoli scored first against them in Italy in September en route to a thumping 4-1 success which started the Anfield alarm bells ringing.

Klopp has revealed his concern at his team’s form this season and normally he would have made a number of changes for the Anfield clash, with qualification assured. But the German knows he cannot risk too many changes against such a formidable opponent.

Klopp said: “If Napoli play like they have been then they have a good chance of getting to the final. Did they copy our style?

“No, Spalletti is a very experienced coach working around the world and has made good signings and brought the group together. They defend differently to us.”

They certainly defend ‘differently’ – the Serie A table toppers have conceded just nine goals in 12 league games – and they have a 100% winning record in the Champions League so far.

Napoli have won 3-1 at Rangers and 6-1 at Ajax and much will depend on how keen Spalletti is to go six from six in Group A.

Whether Spalletti will risk Victor Osimhen, who scored a hat-trick in the 4-0 win against Sassuolo at the weekend, remains unclear.

Liverpool will be without Luis Diaz, Diogo Jota, Joel Matip and Arthur, while James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Ibrahima Konate could replace Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho and Joe Gomez.

With neither team needing to win it’s hard to make a serious case for either and the two may well be happy to play out a draw.

Marseille vs Tottenham

There are a number of dead rubbers around in the Champions League this week, but Group D is alive and kicking.

There is everything to play for with Spurs, Marseille, Frankfurt and Sporting all still able to make it into the knockout stage.

OM have managed to take advantage of Sporting’s recent indiscipline to put themselves in with a chance of qualifying with two wins over the Portuguese side, who had three men sent off over the two games.

But last week’s defeat against Frankfurt has seen them drop back to fourth place in the group and they must beat Spurs on home soil to have a chance of progressing.

Even a best-priced 2/1 cannot tempt us to side with Igor Tudor’s men, because on recent form they look like they will struggle.

They have won just one of their last five games at home and conceded in each of their last six in front of their own fans. Add that to their unenviable record against English teams in the Champions League – they have not won a game against a Premier League side since 2010 – and they face a difficult game against Antonio Conte’s men.

But Spurs themselves are not in great form despite a last-gasp win over Bournemouth last time out.

They defeated Marseille 2-0 in the corresponding home game, but away from home in the Champions League they are yet to score a goal.

Marseille, though, will have to get on the front foot and that may well play into the hands of Conte, whose side went 3-5-2 on the south coast.

Spurs’ unreliable rearguard does not make them a bet to win away in the Orange Velodrome, though, and the draw at around 5/2 could be the best play.

Sporting vs Eintracht Frankfurt

A place in the last 16 is still a possibility for both Sporting and Eintracht Frankfurt from a hugely competitive Group D.

The final Champions League group matches can be dangerous to bet in with some teams already through and team selections can reflect that.

Ruben Amorim’s side only need a point to qualify, but if they lose they could find themselves in the Europa League.

That will surely mean that Amorim, whose men have struggled to keep 11 men on the field in recent games, will go for the win.

They made a host of changes in the shock 1-0 loss to Arouca on Saturday and Sporting certainly had one eye on Tuesday’s clash.

Sporting have rolled over Spurs at home and lost with nine men to Marseille, while Frankfurt won in Marseille and narrowly lost at Tottenham.

Frankfurt can only progress to the knockout stages with a win, but the fifth-placed Bundesliga side’s form is as hard to work out as their hosts’.

They have some impressive wins under their belts this season, but have been beaten by struggling Bochum 3-0 and lost 2-1 to Borussia Dortmund at the weekend.

But their last three games in the league and two in the Champions League have seen both teams score – and if we can expect one thing in Lisbon it will be goals.

Key stats

Liverpool have scored at least two goals in 15 of their last 18 CL matches

Napoli have scored at least three goals in their last five CL matches

Napoli have won their last five CL matches

Liverpool have won their last four CL matches

Napoli have been winning at both half-time and full-time in their last three CL matches

Spurs are yet to score away in the CL this season

Sporting have conceded a goal in each of their last nine matches

Eintracht Frankfurt have scored at least one goal in their last six matches


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