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The Champions League is refreshing for a number of reasons. It’s a different format, so you’re not playing for three points. Knockout phases have and always will be the be-all and end-all of football to me. Secondly, it’s got added psychology, as you can approach home and away legs very differently. It sets up a narrative-led game of football which generally doesn’t impact the sport. And of course, there isn’t an Arsenal in sight.
So, for Chelsea v Porto to still retain its significance – in spite of the London club being two goals to the good and both legs taking place in the same stadium – is only a good thing for the sport.
Tuesday 20:00 – Chelsea v Porto
BT Sport 2
Thomas Tuchel may have experienced plenty of Champions League heartbreak with PSG, but his evolving style at Stamford Bridge certainly dismisses the idea that the cream of the crop in European football exist within a 200-mile radius of Birmingham city centre.
This game is far less about if Chelsea progress or not; more so to centred around how they’re going to manage it, and I find these clashes the best to have a punt on. With that in mind, here’s three bets to have you in cover by bedtime on Tuesday.
Chelsea are an interesting unit. They’re good enough with the ball that they’ll always recycle possession, but they haven’t shown enough consistency in terms of converting that possession into goals yet. This allows opposition players to press them, rather than allow them to dictate unquestioned.
That’s what happened in the first leg. Despite having over 60% of the ball, Chelsea did next to nothing for long spells and were probably second-best.
Now, add in another factor in that they’ve a two-goal lead to sit on. They’ll be even more conservative, meaning they’re not at all likely to score – and if they do, it will be late in the game when gaps begin to open up.
Remember, it’s not too often you’re gifted a double chance opportunity where the side you’re backing winning doesn’t immediately result in an onslaught from the opposition.
This is largely a good bet because of the flow of the game. Porto know they can’t rush things because the longer the game goes on, the deeper Chelsea will drop and that’s exactly what they need. The Blues will keep the ball in the centre circle for as long as they’re allowed to, and this game will feature consistent attempts to time-waste – whether that be from set pieces, dead ball situations or feigning injury – this will not be one for the purists.
If we see a goal, there’s probably a fair chance the second one, if it comes, won’t be soon after – as teams like to readjust to the script. Beautiful, insecure mentality clashes.
The Portuguese midfielder is on set-piece duty and I always think in a competition that features the best players in the world, there’s a slight edge in backing someone who’s prolific in this regard.
Not only does he take free-kicks, but he’s the designated penalty taker and when nerves kick in, legs come out. Don’t be surprised to see the same happen again.
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