Having talked about home advantage being critical in Champions League action, last week's first legs of the final round of qualifying proved to be the exception to the rule -- or if you want to put it another way, proved me wrong. Sometimes the fixture list just throws up the stronger teams away from home but I have a feeling there was a little more to it than that.
Possession may be nine tenths of the law as the saying goes but it is not much use unless you get the job done at the other end of the field. More and more often, we're seeing home sides feel the pressure of having to attack, perhaps against their natural instinct, and paying the price. Last week, three away teams won out of 10, five were drawn and only two home sides won.
Porto can pick off counter-attacking Lille
Porto did a good job to win in France against Lille and are understandably big favourites to win the second leg, too, on Tuesday night. They will try to control the match with possession and Lille are a side that love to hit teams on the counter-attack, using their pace. An early goal in this match for the French would change the dynamic, forcing Porto to come forward. But if Porto can control things, then the opposite is likely and Bet365's offer of 3/1 on it being a draw at half-time and a Porto win at full-time looks worth taking.
Bet of the week
Arsenal came away from Turkey with a well-earned 0-0 draw against Besiktas and will be confident of winning the return in London, not least because they have never conceded a goal at home against a Turkish side in the Champions League. Buoyed by a late comeback to draw 2-2 at Everton in the Premier League at the weekend, they should be confident of getting througheven if they will miss the influence of Aaron Ramsey, who was sent off late on in the opening leg.
A regular goalscorer from midfield, Ramsey will be missed and Arsenal are not exactly banging in the goals yet, so why not take advantage of Bet365's offer of 5/2 for Arsenal to win, but with a total of two goals or less.
Zenit St Petersburg won 1-0 away to Standard Liege and of course now know that a draw will be enough to send them through. The Russians are a fine side at home and put eight goals past Torpedo Moscow a few weeks ago. However, things have calmed down lately and without the need to score at all, try total goals at less than three, at 6/5 with Bet365.
Celtic rode their luck, big time, to make it through to this stage and they ought to have the upper hand going into their match with NK Maribor, having drawn the first leg 1-1 away from home. But something tells me that they will not have it their own way and may find the pressure too hot to handle. At home they are usually strong but they have already lost at Parkhead in the competition this season -- so why not risk a little punt on it happening again by backing Maribor at 6/1 with Bet365.