Schar suspension means Martinez should best Basel defence in last 16
Premier League clubs have long been linked with Basel centre back and set-piece threat Fabian Schar, as well as Porto’s star striker Jackson Martinez. These two rumoured targets of Arsenal will have to wait to get acquainted, however, as the Switzerland defender is suspended for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.
Coral make Swiss Super League side Basel 9/4 outsiders to win the first leg against the Dragons as a result, with a draw priced at 11/5. Julen Lopetgeui’s team start as 11/8 favourites to take lead a back to Porto, largely down to the form of Martinez and Algeria attacking midfield maestro Yacine Brahimi.
That Dragons duo netted more than half (nine) of the 16 strikes the Portuguese giants managed in the group stage, so this is a stern test for the hosts without Schar and those Switzerland stereotypes of mean defending.
Basel boss Paulo Sousa, who used to coach QPR, Swansea City and Leicester City when that trio were Championship clubs, has brought in veteran Argentine centre back Walter Samuel, a Champions League winner with Inter Milan in 2010, to aid 23-year-old Schar’s development.
Czech Republic international Marek Suchy should partner left-footer Samuel in the Basel backline, who are 11/5 to keep a clean sheet, but shutting Porto’s fearsome forwards out looks a huge ask.
Punters will not be surprised to learn Martinez is the main danger to the home defence, and he features in a 7/2 wincast matchday special from Coral. Please note, you can stake a maximum of £20 on this boosted bet.
Brahimi, the reigning African Footballer of the Year, meanwhile, is a tasty 2/1 anytime scorer chance for Porto. Ex-Chelsea loanee Ricardo Quaresma is longer at 10/3 in that market to grab a goal from the wing, and Mexico’s box-to-box midfielder Hector Herrera is 5/1.
Cameron forward Vincent Aboubakar, who has two Champions League strikes already, is a 6/1 shot to net last, having done so on two of three occasions he’s played in Europe’s elite club competition.
Former Portugal anchorman Sousa never played for Porto, but did spend spells with Sporting Lisbon and Benfica during his on-field career. His secret weapon that might step up and slay the Dragons is Paraguay forward Derlis Gonzalez. Odds of 11/4 say he will net anytime.
Basel captain Marco Streller has delivered in big matches, though, and the ex-Switzerland striker is shorter at 7/4.
Porto possess Brazilian trio Casemiro, Danilo and Alex Sandro in defensive areas, and they must use this European adventure to help cement themselves as squad regulars and first XI players for the Samba Boys. A narrow 1-0 win for the Dragons looks decent value at 6/1.