Entering this season’s Champions League campaign as holders – and having reached two finals in a row – Liverpool likely didn’t expect to be facing a “must win” fixture at the beginning of October. In some senses, though, that’s what they’re up against this evening, with dangerous underdogs RB Salzburg keen to inflict a second consecutive European reverse on the Reds after the opening night saw Jurgen Klopp’s side submit 2-0 to Napoli.
Things could be a lot worse as they look to get their campaign going – it’s not like they’ve picked up just one point from two games like Real Madrid, or been horsed 7-2 by Bayern Munich (hi, Spurs!). However, Liverpool won’t need telling that this game represents what the Big Book of Football Cliches assures us is a “potential banana skin”. The Austrian side come into this encounter with confidence, having won 6-2 against Genk in their opening fixture and scored 40 goals in their first nine Bundesliga fixtures.
Both sides top of their domestic leagues
Liverpool bring to this game the confidence of a side that has won all seven of its domestic league games so far this season, opening up a five-point Premier League lead over Manchester City. That’s the same gap that die Roten Bullen
currently enjoy over LASK Linz, who are not owned by oil-rich billionaires (or a major soft drink company, for that matter). Now, clearly, Liverpool have been facing a higher standard of opposition than the Austrian Bundesliga offers to their rivals tonight, but by no means can the visitors be taken lightly; their run to the Europa League semi-finals in 2018 saw them take out Lazio and Borussia Dortmund on the way.
This is likely to be a competitive clash, and Salzburg are unlikely to step off the attacking approach that has served them so well up to now. It should be noted that Austrian domestic football is light on the high-pressing approach that Liverpool employ, though, and Klopp’s men should have enough about them to see off their opponents here. The one caveat we’ll add is that they probably won’t do it without conceding (more on that shortly), and so Betway’s odds of 13/10 on Liverpool and Both Teams To Score look very attractive to us.
Salzburg relying on Braut force?
He’s 19, 6’ 3, and he’s scored 18 goals in his fifteen games so far this season. Erling Braut Håland, son of Alf Inge, has the tools to become a much more celebrated player than his father ever was. Håland has been sought after by most of Europe’s top teams, and will likely end up at one of them before too long, but his move from Molde to Salzburg was a fairly canny step, allowing the powerful Norwegian striker a chance to acclimatise to European football with a side whose domestic dominance doesn’t rest entirely on his shoulders. Still a teenager, he could easily have joined a Manchester United and become lost in the noise that surrounds such a club. At RBS, he can hone his finishing and become a more polished product before a bigger move.
His Champions League debut certainly showcased the player he could become – Håland had netted a hat-trick by half-time against Genk. More interestingly, he’s the asset he is because a late-teens growth spurt meant he had already acquired plenty of skill and composure on the ball before he became a classic Scandinavian striker; what we’re saying is, he has a great touch for a big man, and can be dangerous against tougher opposition than he faces domestically. He’s 9/4 to score anytime tonight with Paddy Power – and even though he doesn’t face Virgil van Dijk every week, he’s good value at that price.
A classic European tie in prospect
Here’s a stat for you – when RB Salzburg beat Genk 6-2, it was the sixth time in seven matches that they had scored five or more goals. In between those games, they managed only a paltry 3-0 win over Ried. They don’t rely purely on Håland to get those goals – attackers such as Hwang Hee-Chan and Takumi Minamino are dangerous in front of goal, too. Liverpool, for their part, have scored at a more sedate pace, with “just” eighteen goals in seven games. That’s still more than two a game, and with a defence as good as theirs it’s been ample to win every game. This game, then, features two attacks that “know where the goal is”.
As such, the 2/1 you can find at Betfair for there to be more than 4.5 goals in the game may well be worth taking. Of course, you can’t rule out the possibility of this match bucking the trend and ending 1-0 – but it wouldn’t make sense for the visitors to lock the door and try and keep Liverpool from gaining an attacking foothold. Mane, Salah and Firmino are too good to keep quiet for 90 minutes, and it would work against what the Austrian side are good at. This should be an end-to-end clash, and though it might end with a hefty defeat for the visitors, they’d much sooner go down swinging than reject what’s in their DNA and lose anyway.
Bets of the Day
Erling Håland to score anytime (Paddy Power, 9/4); Liverpool win and BTTS (Betway, 13/10); More than 4.5 goals (Betfair, 2/1)