herald

Monday 23 October 2017

DARK HORSES

Champions League winner Paul Scholes believes Liverpool could be a good outside bet to win this season's competition.

Liverpool, the five-times European champions, are returning to the elite event this season after a five-year absence.

The Merseysiders begin their campaign tonight by hosting Bulgarian champions Ludogorets and will also play holders Real Madrid and Swiss side Basle in Group B.

Scholes, a member of the Manchester United side that won the 2008 final, expects Anfield to be a tough place for visiting sides.

The 39-year-old said: "Liverpool are the dark horse of the competition. Brendan Rodgers has done a fantastic job. The style of play he's adopted is exciting to watch and the players seem to have taken to him. I feel they will do well with the players they have.

"The big advantage they have is a home crowd. Anfield is always a hostile place to go, which is something Manchester City lack."

Liverpool qualified for the Champions League after a superb 2013-14 campaign in which they finished close runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League. Since then they have lost their talisman Luis Suarez to Barcelona, but Scholes thinks Mario Balotelli could prove a good replacement.

Speaking about Suarez, Scholes said: "He's a great player, but don't forget they've signed Balotelli who, on his day, can be a match winner too."

Scholes doubts whether Arsenal, who face Borussia Dortmund this evening, will have the fortitude to seriously challenge for the trophy.

He said: "They always seem to get through the group. The only problem with Arsenal is when they meet top teams, they don't seem to have the consistent level of mental strength to get through it."

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