So – the 9th round of games, and all to play for. There are some tasty moments to come, see our piece later today for all the information you need to know about the upcoming 2 rounds of matches!
Here are my 8 picks for the next 3 days of international football, covering the next round of fixtures:
1. Poland Win @ 17/10 vs Scotland
Poland players apparently have £100,000 bonus waiting for each and every one of them if they beat Scotland and confirm qualification, and against a Scotland side missing vital players, I think that could come. With the likes of Lewandowski, Grosicki, Milik, Glik, Piszczek and Ryvus starting, you can see they have goals in them. Scotland basically need at least a point, and could end up chasing the game, which will play into Polands’ hand – a very quick counter attacking side that are slick with the ball. 17/10 seems generous, but good value.
2. Germany HT-FT @ 6/5 vs Rep of Ireland
Germany made a slow start, which included a draw against Ireland. Since then, 5 wins on the spin and 5 HT-FT that would have won should you have bet on that outcome. With a full strength squad that includes the likes of Kroos, Ozil, Reus, Muller, Gotze and Hummels – you have to fancy the World Champs to win this game at a canter, and depending on the Scotland result, make Ireland sweat.
The Irish are missing the likes of Wilson, Coleman – and have Glenn Whelan and James McClean suspended. Robbie Keane travelled over yesterday and despite a few questions is going to play, but a long haul flight from America, what affect could that have?
Anyway – Germany to win, comfortably.
3. England -2 Goal Handicap @ 5/4 vs Estonia
England may have only won 1-0 last time against Estonia, but they were on home soil (very uneven soil) and down to 10 for much of the 2nd half, so a flat back 11 was the formation (Rush goalie, incase you were wondering). On a better pitch, against a confident England side – they could come unstuck this time. Wayne Rooney might miss out, but that is a good thing if you ask me as he can often slow down some of the younger players’ slick, one touch passing. With the likes of Walcott fit again, and Sterling/Ox/Townsend flying down the wings – England could batter a side that failed to find the net against San Marino.
Behind the front three, you might see the likes of Barkley, who has a spark in his game that is wonderful to watch. Delle Alli could feature after impressing for Spurs this season. Clyne and Bertrand should provide plenty of width in the full back positions, and plenty of pace too. All in all, England should score plenty and not concede. An early goal is key as the longer it takes, the more Estonia grow in confidence. Interestingly they need to win to keep alive any slim hope of qualifying themselves, so might not sit back like all expect. England won the last three meets 1-0, 3-0 and 3-0. A sign, perhaps?
4. Slovakia Win + Over 2.5 Goals @ 13/8 vs Belarus
Slovakia have won 7 of their last 10 home games, but have conceded a few to some poor teams. They require a further few points to maintain their automatic qualification spot, and should really beat a side they beat 3-1 last time out. Belarus are no pushover – beating Macedonia and Luxembourg (obviously…) and then scoring against Russia, Ukraine and Slovakia. The home side do though have the potential to score at least three like they did last time, so I’m thinking 3-0 or 2-1.
5. Ukraine -1 Goal Handicap @ 11/8 vs Macedonia
Simply put – Ukraine need to win here to stand any chance of getting 2nd place. They defeated Macedonia 1-0 last time out, but could have scored a tonne. Macedonia have lost their last 3 games to nil, and generally are pretty abysmal. Ukraine should have their first choice front three playing in Yevhen Konoplyanka, Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Seleznyov, the latter two very proven scorers, while Kono is full of pace and creativity, and the occasional screamer. Win to Nil was tempting, but as Macedonia have scored against Spain – I thought it best not to risk it as one slip-up could blow the whole bet.
6. Slovenia Win to Nil @ 11/8 vs Lithuania
Slovenia are in good touch – scoring three goals against both Switzerland and England in their two games against them. They battered San Marino 6-0 (standard) and squeezed past a tough Estonia, while also beating Lithuania 2-0 in the previous meet. With a win needed, this is the ideal opportunity to seal their playoff place against a team who have failed to score in 7 of their last 10 away games, losing to nil in 6 – including Estonia and Malta.
7. Belgium -4 Goal Handicap @ 7/4 vs Andorra
Last time these two met in the group, it ended 6-0. Andorra are abhorrent, losing 8/8 and conceding 30 goals including 8 over 2 legs vs Cyprus. 4+ have been conceded in 4 of their 8 games, while a win for Belgium confirms their place in next summers’ showpiece. No matter what side Belgium put out – likely to contain a few younger players, 5 goals against this outfit should be no problem.
8. Bosnia-Wales BTTS + Over 2.5 Goals @ 8/5
Bosnia need 2 wins from 2 to stand a chance of getting through into the playoffs, and are favourites against a Wales side who are on the brink. With Bale playing as a striker, it’s imperative he gets good delivery and plenty of the ball in general – but against a Bosnia side who will be going all out to secure 3 points, this for me could be a cracker. Dzeko and Ibesevic are likely to start, with the likes of Pjanic in midfield. Bosnia are good at home, scoring in 8 of their last 10 and usually grab 2-3 per game, while Wales have conceded in 7 of their last 10 away, but only 2 this qualifying. Either way – I think it is a good bet.
We should have another of these on Saturday evening for the last set of games. Other tempting games were the likes of Cyrprus vs Israel, Iceland vs Latvia and N Ireland vs Greece, but I deemed them too risky to include here.
Best of luck