Porto v Juventus
Wednesday February 17, 20:00
Live on BT Sport 2
Trouble at home, strong in Europe
By this stage of the season Porto are normally in pole position to go on and win yet another domestic title, but things have been quite different this season.
There’s not much wrong with 41 points from 19 games, which puts them in second place and three points ahead of rivals Braga and Benfica.
The problem they have is Sporting Lisbon’s outstanding form, which has seen Ruben Amorim’s top the table on 48 points. It’s not over yet but it won’t be easy for Sergio Conceicao’s side to pull things back.
They were particularly good in the Champions League, though. They beat Marseille and Olympiakos both home and away and drew at home to Manchester City. They can consider themselves pretty unlucky that with 13 points, they didn’t top the Group which would have meant they were seeded.
They drew 2-2 at the weekend against Boavista and can’t be best pleased with that at a time they just can’t afford to drop any more points.
Pirlo under pressure
Juventus, far more dominant than Porto are on the domestic front, aren’t having things all their own way either in Serie A.
They sit in third on 42 points with both Milans ahead of them and it would be something of a disappointment for Andrea Pirlo if he ends up being the manager in charge when Juve finally don’t win the title.
Again, like Porto, they saved their best for this competition.
They won five of their six matches and can be particularly proud of their last game. Having lost 2-0 to Barcelona at home, they went out and beat them 3-0 in Spain, with Cristiano Ronaldo grabbing two.
The win meant that at the 11th hour they topped the Group courtesy of a better head-to-head record and the reward was a seemingly easier draw.
They lost 1-0 at Napoli at the weekend and that was despite them fielding virtually their best side.
The first thing I’ll say is I wouldn’t want to be backing Juve at that price of 2.0621/20.
Whether it’s Pirlo’s inexperience or that this looks more like a squad in transition than a winning machine, that’s not a price for me given the task in hand.
Porto have only lost one game at home all season, a 3-2 reversal against Maritimo all the way back in October. Of course, we’re not going to pretend that the likes of Tondela and Portimonense are at the same level as Juventus, but this is a strong, well-drilled side who held Man City to a 0-0 draw and that Juve price is just too short.
There may however be few takers of that 4.3100/30 on Porto. Especially if they know about this Opta stat: in five attempts, they’ve never beaten Juve.
Opta also tell us that only against Liverpool (eight matches) have they played a team more times without winning. Finally, Opta note that Juve are alongside Zenit, the only side to have gone to the Estadio do Dragao twice or more and never conceded. They’ve also won just one of their last nine knockout games in the Champions League.
I wouldn’t put anyone off taking the draw at 3.412/5. Neither side would see it as a disastrous result and it could be argued that home advantage (crowds or otherwise) could easily level things up here.
But if the option to lay Juventus is there at a short price, we might as well take it and have two of the three bases covered.
Going ‘unders’ should pay out here at around 1.758/11.
Remarkably, the perfectly understandable 3-1 loss at Man City were the only goals Porto conceded in their six Group games. They’ve been similarly good in defence in the Portuguese league. Across four games between late January and early February, they kept four consecutive clean sheets.
It’s also worth taking note of the fact that in the four games between these two, three stayed ‘unders’. The scores were 0-0 and Juve wins by 3-1, 2-0 and 1-0.
Juve didn’t concede many in the Group Stages themselves, just four.
Aside from the numbers, this just doesn’t have the makings of an open game with sides happy to take risks.
I wouldn’t rule out under 1.5 goals, either. It’s currently 3.211/5.
Ronaldo more up for it than ever
A quick glance at the prices on scorers unsurprisingly reveals Cristiano Ronaldo as an even money favourite to get a goal. He has four goals in this competition so far and ‘just’ the 25 from 31 for the season. As if ever it was needed with him, but he may just be that extra bit motivated given he was a star at Sporting Lisbon when he started out.
At 4/1 you can back Porto’s all-action midfielder Sergio Oliveira to get a goal. He’s a curious case; he has 12 goals for the season and all of the last six were penalties. So, he hardly ever scores other than from the spot, but they seem to get quite a few spot-kicks.
Decent same-game multi-bet at 3.23
You can of course also go for a same-game multi-bet if none of the bets as singles are quite right for you.
‘No’ on both teams to score at 20/23 could be a good starting point if you believe like me this could be a slow burner. If you want to take that view a step further, this could well be drawn at the break, that is if there are goals at all. The half-time draw, at evens, with that ‘no’ on both teams to score, comes to 3.23.