THE BTTS COUPON – 11th & 12th December
On Wednesday, the group stage of this year’s Champions League comes to its conclusion and Arsenal are near certainties to join Chelsea and both Manchester clubs in the hat for the last 16. However, for some of the other teams involved their fate isn’t quite so assured.
Then on Thursday, attentions turn to the final set of fixtures in the Europa League in what are the last European matches of the calendar year. It’s set to be a cracking couple of nights and here are three games we think could produce goals.
ATLETICO MADRID V PORTO (WEDS)
Porto make the trip to the Spanish capital knowing that only a win will do if they are going to reach the last 16 of this year’s Champions League and will be hoping that an already qualified Atletico will take it easy. However, in a Spain vs Portugal clash you wouldn’t anticipate that happening.
The Spaniards have strolled to the knockout stages and sit seven points clear of second-placed Zenit with just one match left to play. Four wins and a draw represent a fantastic campaign and Atletico will aim to finish the group unbeaten. However, with Valencia waiting on Sunday they may be forgiven for taking the foot off the gas a little, which could provide Porto with a lifeline in their bid for the last 16.
In Portugal it ended 2-1 and there are definitely players in both camps who will be confident of scoring should a chance present itself. Even if the relentless Diego Costa is rested, Madrid can still rely on the likes of Villa and Raul Garcia.
If Zenit win, then the result here will be redundant. Nonetheless, Porto will want to be positive and will attack from the off and Jackson in particular could pose a massive threat. On the down side, that focus on attack could leave holes at the back; you would expect Atletico to take advantage of those.
LAZIO V TRABZONSPOR (THURS)
The Italians and Turks will be progressing from Group J as they finish miles ahead of Limassol and Warsaw, and they could put on an entertaining show in Rome.
Both teams are unbeaten after 5 games, with the Turks sitting two points clear of their hosts ahead of Thursday’s encounter. Lazio will seek the win that would see them leapfrog their opponents but Trabzonspor are equally dangerous in attack and have recorded an impressive 13 goals in their 5 matches so far.
The 3-3 draw in Turkey is a good omen and whilst both teams will be out to claim top spot, there will be no pressure on either side as participation in the last 32 has already been assured. This could lead to a very open match inside the Olympic Stadium and if either side falls behind then they may adopt a ‘gung ho’ attitude in an attempt to get back into the match.
Domestically Trabzonspor are on a two game losing streak, but have scored in both, and will want to end that here. Meanwhile, Lazio are bound to perform in front of their home support. It should be a very interesting affair.
EINTRACHT FRANKFURT V APOEL NICOSIA (Thurs)
Frankfurt have already secured top spot in Group F and may rest players ahead of their weekend trip to Bayer Leverkusen. This may provide APOEL with slight reason for optimism but in truth the Cypriots will need a miracle in order to progress.
If Maccabi Tel Aviv avoid defeat against Bordeaux then it’s all over for APOEL but nevertheless they will head into the encounter wanting to win as victory in Germany would be a huge result on its own merit. It still seems unlikely that they will come away with all three points but I do think they can score against a presumably weakened Frankfurt.
The home side have kept four clean sheets in their five games but with the pressure off they may be more concerned about putting on an attacking display for their home fans. It should lead to a pretty open game and this could easily be one that ends with five or six goals shared between the two sides. Frankfurt should still be favourites to win but under the circumstances I think the Cypriots will at least get a souvenir strike.