Champions League Soccer Pick: Basel vs. Porto

Nikki Adams

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 1:56 PM GMT

Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 1:56 PM GMT

Europe's top flight competition returns this week with a whole slew of R16 fixtures. We look at the compelling clash between Basel and Porto, preview the soccer odds and serve up our choice picks.

Swiss League Leaders Tournament Dark Horse
Basel are riding high in Switzerland's Super League with a 14-3-3 record and 45 points, comprised of a 6-3-1 record at home and an impressive 8-0-2 record on the road. On the season, they've scored 45 goals and conceded 21. Current form since the New Year features four wins and a draw; most recently, they slipped to a 1-1 draw to ninth-placed Sion on Sunday. The sending off of their goalkeeper had a lot to do with the result as the league leaders were forced to play with ten men for 45 minutes. One has to consider the Champions League date against FC Porto looming on Wednesday also played a factor.

Basel have built a solid reputation in Champions League in recent years as "live" underdogs, notorious for their giant-slaying ways. They stunningly beat Chelsea last year (both home and away) in group play, which is no mean feat. And a few years ago, they deposited a plucky effort in a 1-0 win over Bayern Munich at St. Jacob Park in the first leg of their R16 tie. As well, they took four points off Man United in group play that season.

Basel entered the Champions League competition this year as one of several dark horses to spot. They came through on that moniker by finishing second in Group B, two points ahead of a much favoured Liverpool. Overall, the Swiss went 2-1-3 in the competition and scored 7 goals and conceded 8 goals. Although they were decimated by Real Madrid (the class of Europe's top club competition), they earned a crucial 1-0 win over Liverpool at St. Jacob's Park and a 1-1 draw at Anfield Stadium that gave them the leg up and saw them through to the knockouts.

In spite of everything, Basel are firmly in the disadvantage across sportsbook platforms, matched at +230 soccer odds to win at home. The draw is also matched at +230, suggesting that either outcome is going to be equally challenging to clinch, if not altogether improbable as the visitors are getting the nod from the bookies.

 

FC Porto At The Advantage
FC Porto enter their R16 tie at the advantage, albeit on the long side of even money at +138 soccer odds. In their heyday, the Portuguese high-flyers were considered one of the better teams on the European front, rubber stamping those credentials with a Champions League title in 2004 under Jose Mourinho. Since then, FC Porto declined steadily, going as far as missing the knockout stages in the last three instalments of the competition.

FC Porto are currently second in Premeira Liga, four points behind perennial title rivals Benfica. On the season, they are 15-4-2 with 49 points, comprised of a 9-1-1 record at home and a 6-3-1 record on the road. They've scored 50 goals and conceded just 10 goals in Portugal's top flight, which is a rather impressive record regardless of the strength of the competition.

FC Porto won Group H to advance into the knockouts behind a solid 4-2-0 record (highlighted by 16 goals scored and just 4 conceded). There is a legitimate argument to be had about the strength (or lack thereof) of the group, which included Shakhtar Donetsk, Athletic Club and FC Bate Borisov. It wouldn't be superfluous to suggest FC Porto benefited from a lightweight section in the competition.

 

Champions League Betting Verdict:
Although the odds makers favour the visitors in this fixture, the hosts have to fancy their chances in what is, arguably, a winnable tie. In fact, by that token, neither side is really a clear-cut favourite.

Basel have to make home advantage count if they hope to advance. That they've done so in previous seasons against more successful outfits in European competition underscores their chances here and that's what we're hanging our hat on. Not to mention, they look severely underrated at the big price of +230, which only makes them an even more tempting soccer pick to win the home leg of their R16 tie with FC Porto.

Champions League Pick: Basel +230 at Bodog

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