Atalanta v Liverpool
Tuesday November 3, 20:00
TV: live on BT Sport 1
Atalanta can get two, Jota can get one
These could be some very testing few months coming up for Liverpool. The injury to Virgil van Dijk has completely changed the dynamic and confidence of the side. Although to be fair to youngster Nathaniel Philips, who filled in at centre back in the absence of VVD, Fabinho and Joel Matip, he was very impressive at the weekend against West Ham.
Not only have clean sheets for Liverpool been a rarity – just four in 12 matches all season- but they’re likely to continue to be. Even Alisson doesn’t look quite as composed as he has in the past.
If there’s one side you don’t want to be playing when you’re not defending particularly well, it’s Atalanta. They’ve scored in every one of their eight matches this season and 23 goals in total. Simple maths tells us that’s an average of almost three goals a game. And it’s not like Serie A is known as a goal-fest. But this a very unusual Italian side who want games to be as open a possible. Their approach of ‘we’ll outscore you’ is pretty rare these days, and very refreshing.
I wouldn’t put anyone off backing the straight Atalanta win at 11/5 or over 3.5 goals at 19/20 but instead, I’ll take the evens that Atalanta can score at least two goals. Only once this season have they failed to get two, a 3-1 home defeat to Sampdoria, and Liverpool have conceded two or more on four occasions already.
The Serie A side may be brilliant going forward but they’re not too clever at the back. They’ve had just the one clean sheet all season, so I’m going to go with a Liverpool player to get a goal.
And it’s Diogo Jota. For three good reasons. He’s the only Liverpool forward almost certain to start after being on the bench on Saturday, he’s the form man with three goals in his last three games and he’s a bigger price than Sadio Mane or Mo Salah. Pretty good reasons to go with the impressive Portuguese attacker at 13/8. The double comes to 4.97.
Chelsea v Rennes
Wednesday November 4, 20:00
TV: live on BT Sport 1
Clean sheet and at least two goals of their own for Blues
By hook or by crook, Chelsea have stumbled upon a good combination at the back. It’s incredible what a difference a confident keeper can make to proceedings and Edouard Mendy, coincidentally bought from Rennes in the close season, has also shown great shot-stopping and command of his area in addition to organising things better than Kepa ever did.
It’s now four clean sheets in a row for Chelsea, two in the league and two in this competition, and much of that is down to Mendy. Although a much-improved Kurt Zouma and the impressive Ben Chillwell have been particularly good as well.
Rennes aren’t the biggest scorers, with just five in their last five, and only one goal scored in two games in this competition. They may struggle to score here. It’s 11/10 on under 1.5 Rennes goals (the same thing as a Chelsea clean sheet) and that will do me fine.
Chelsea on the other hand, may find scoring pretty easy. Yes, there were hard-fought 0-0 draws in the last month against Man Utd and Sevilla but Frank Lampard was pretty pragmatic in those matches, considering them both good results.
In a lovely symmetry, they scored four and three goals in the games before those two back-to-back draws and four and three goals in the two games after them.
They’ve got loads of quality attackers available at the moment, meaning Lampard has the nice task of having to decide who to leave out. It’s 6/4 on over 2.5 Chelsea goals but that may be a little ambitious. I’ll take the over 1.5 Chelsea goals at 2/5 instead, with the double coming to 2.97.