Liverpool v Manchester City
The Premier League’s two pre-season title favourites lock horns on Super Sunday and it’s hard not to see anything but a thriller when Liverpool welcome Manchester City to Anfield. With the two teams leading the way with identical W6-D1-L0 records, there’s plenty at stake, even at this early stage of the season.
Liverpool come into the contest having generated their lowest Expected Goals figure under Jurgen Klopp’s watch in midweek. The Reds failed to even attempt from inside the penalty area when going down 1-0 at Napoli, following on from a thrilling 1-1 draw at Chelsea in the Premier League last Saturday evening.
The Merseysiders haven’t yet hid their stride in 2018/19, although the hosts do come into this clash having suffered only four Anfield defeats in Premier League since Klopp took charge. Meanwhile, Liverpool are unbeaten (W5-D5-L0) when welcoming Big Six opposition over the last two campaigns here.
Obviously, the Reds have enjoyed recent encounters with Manchester City, winning three of last season’s four meetings, and have avoided defeat at Anfield against the Citizens since 2003. Klopp’s charges won’t be intimidated by the record-breaking champions and are likely to meet fire with fire.
Of course, the electrifying triumvirate of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane have yet to truly ignite this term, but Liverpool remain one of the fiercest attacking animals in the Premier League and have the tools to trouble a City side that’s undoubtedly undertaken the more cushy opening stanza.
Klopp has beaten Pep Guardiola in eight of their 14 duels but the visitors boss will feel his team have a point to prove. The Citizens have won five of their past six trips to Big Six rivals, only falling flat at Anfield.
Man City’s midweek win at Hoffenheim should have been more comfortable than the final score suggested. Even so, City gave up plenty of space, and counter-attacking opportunities when possession was turned over and a meaner offensive outfit are unlikely to be as forgiving as the Germans.
Sunday’s showdown is all set-up to be an absolute feast for goals-based punters.
The markets tend to agree, although I’m surprised we can still scoop a generous 1.77 when supporting the Over 2.75 Goals line. All four of last season’s encounters featured at least three goals, while nine of the past 11 Anfield meetings have produced three or more goals.
Over the past two campaigns, these two have combined for 53/82 (65%) profitable Over 2.5 Goals selections in respective home/away outings with 34 (41%) breaking the Over 3.5 Goals barrier. What’s more, 7/10 (70%) of their collective home/away tussles with the Big Six in 2017/18 also paid-out.
Atletico Madrid v Real Betis
Atletico Madrid have found their feet after less than auspicious start to the 2018/19 La Liga campaign. Thankfully for Los Colchoneros, title rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona have both dropped numerous points in the past fortnight to hand Diego Simeone’s side a route back into the championship race.
In midweek, an Antoine Griezmann brace brushed aside Club Brugge 3-1 in the Champions League, an unusually high-scoring game for Los Rojiblancos. It extended the capital club’s unbeaten streak to five and kept their 100% start to their European challenge intact, but I’d expect normal service to resume here.
On Sunday, Atletico entertain Real Betis at their Wanda Metropolitano base and there’s value in supporting a goal-shy game with Under 2.5 Goals trading at 1.70. Los Colchoneros have only lost once here since the start of last season in La Liga action and a huge 15 of those 22 outings have featured fewer than three goals.
Purely looking at away fixtures across the same sample, Real Betis can match that 15/22 (68%) success rate for Under 2.5 Goals winners in La Liga, making Sunday afternoon’s match a great value selection for a low-entertainment encounter in the autumnal Madrid sunshine.
Back-to-back La Liga wins over Leganes and Girona have seen Betis rise into fifth in Spain almost unannounced. Head coach Quique Setien described the latter success as “very important” as Los Verdiblancos’ positive performances have begun to be rewarded with points on the table.
The Seville-based club finished 2017/18 with a flourish to claim a Europa League berth and Setien’s swashbuckling side were tipped amongst the leading candidates for potential continental qualification once more in 2018/19.
However, an opening day defeat to Levante put the Andalusians on the back foot.
A 1-0 derby success over bitter rivals Sevilla was their only taste of victory, as well as their only goal, in their opening four encounters, but Betis have found their feet of late.
The visitors come into this contest having recorded seven clean sheets in their past eight following their walkover win against Dudelange in the Europa League on Thursday night. Go back to March and Los Verdiblancos have silenced 13 of their past 189opponents, while only Getafe and Villarreal have faced more shots on-target domestically. As stated above I’m happy to take under 2.5 goals here.
- Liverpool v Manchester City – Over 2.75 Goals (1.78)
- Atletico Madrid v Real Betis – Under 2.5 Goals (1.70)