Liverpool and Celtic to take advantage in tough Champions League playoffs?
The opening Premier League weekend has come and gone. Now it's time for the Champions League playoffs.
Liverpool to be punished?
Questions are again being asked of Liverpool's defensive capabilities ahead of Tuesday's Champions League qualifying playoff first leg with Hoffenheim. The Reds put in a shambolic collective shift at the back in drawing 3-3 with Watford on Saturday, yet despite this they go off as 13/10 favourites with bet365 to win in Germany.
The clever and relentless movement of Roberto Firmino almost won the day at the weekend for Jurgen Klopp's side, who fought back brilliantly from 2-1 down to eventually lead 3-2 at Vicarage Road. Alas, as was the case for much of last season, Klopp's side could not close the deal and shipped a contentious equaliser in stoppage time.
Hoffenheim will know all about Firmino, a player who served them with distinction and who scored 47 goals in 151 appearances before moving to Anfield a couple of seasons ago. They will do well also to keep a close eye on Mohamed Salah, who was very lively against the Hornets and who could be key to Liverpool's chances here.
However, so bad was Saturday's defensive display, punters should be wary about steaming into Liverpool at such short odds, as they face a progressive Hoffenheim side guided by the wily Julian Nagelsmann.
The Reds look especially vulnerable to set pieces and it's worth noting that no side in the Bundesliga scored more goals from set plays than Hoffenheim last season. Indeed, 16 of their 64 league goals came from set pieces and forward Sandro Wagner will be a legitimate threat in the air on Tuesday. On home soil the call is to take the 11/10 on Hoffenheim with bet365 in their 'draw not bet' market.
No easy road for Celtic
On Wednesday, Celtic face a huge Champions League playoff first leg against FC Astana. Brendan Rodgers' men secured a double header against the Kazakhstan outfit following their 1-0 aggregate win over Rosenborg, as they look to secure a berth in the group stages for a second successive season.
This tie is by no means a formality for the Hoops however, who edged past the same opposition 3-2 on aggregate last season in the third round of qualifying. Celtic are still missing Moussa Dembele and face an Astana side who dumped out Polish champions Legia Warsaw in the last round.
The Blue and Yellows have won their domestic league for the past three seasons and look a well drilled side with goals in them. They are 10 points clear at home this season and have two strikers, Patrick Twumasi and Junior Kabanang, who are bang in form. The latter has bagged 14 goals this season and will be a real threat in Glasgow.
Guided by the experienced Stanimir Stoilov they won't be overawed about the prospect of another visit to Celtic Park, where they lost a thriller 3-2 last season courtesy of a last gasp Dembele penalty.
The Hoops have been perfect in August so far, winning all four of their matches and shipping just a solitary goal in the process. However with several key men still missing they look dubious favourites in the betting and the shout here is to tickle the 5/4 that bet365 are offering about both team scoring.