Paul Higham picks out the best bets for Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifying play-offs with Scotland, the Republic and Northern Ireland all in action.
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Scotland v Israel
- 7.45pm Sky Sports Football
- Match odds: Home 5/4 | Draw 21/10 | Away 11/5
Another case of what might have been during these terrible times - just imagine a sold-out Hampden Park for this game. The Tartan Army would surely have roared Scotland on to victory and then just one game away from a first major tournament appearance since France '98.
11/5 against Israel, given Scotland's problems, is probably more of a price for a full house than an empty stadium, as they drew 1-1 in last month's Nations League contest and only lost out 3-2 in their previous meeting here, when fans were most certainly present.
The prolific Eran Zahavi scored in both of those games, but that's not unusual for the PSV Eindhoven man, who has bagged Israel's last three away goals and 20 overall in 54 internationals. Zahavi to score anytime at 15/8 must go on the list.
Both teams have scored in the last four meetings, with three of those going over 2.5, and with Israel missing both defender Taleb Tawatha and midfielder Dor Peretz after positive Covid-19 tests, the visitors look even more wide open and likely to concede.
Scotland being Scotland, they've also got problems and they now look worse than Israel, with Stuart Armstrong testing positive for Covid-19 meaning that he'll miss the game, along with Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie who have to self-isolate as a result.
Defenders Scott McKenna and Liam Palmer and attacker Oliver Burke will also miss the game with injury, so it's backs to the wall stuff already for the Scots, before a ball is kicked.
However, Scotland should have won their last game but for some ropey finishing and with Israel also down a couple of starters it remains the home side's game to lose, and makes them a decent bet.
Israel have no clean sheets in their last nine and Scotland haven't lost a competitive home game against a team outside the top 25 in the rankings for 15 years. Israel are ranked 93rd and have lost nine of their last 12, with just two wins coming against Latvia and Liechtenstein.
There is a bit of a mix in the prices and Scotland's selection problems mean they've eased from around evens to a best-priced 7/5. I'll still be backing them to get through, though, at a now much-improved price.
Best bet: Scotland to beat Israel at 7/5
Bosnia v Northern Ireland
- 7.45pm Sky Sports Football
- Match odds: Home Evens | Draw 9/4 | Away 3/1
Bosnia are suffering a tough spell with just four wins in their last 14 games, and three defeats in their last five, so there's certainly hope for Northern Ireland despite losing the last two meetings.
The visitors are desperate to get back to the Euros having made their debut in 2016, but they've won just four competitive games on the road since, with all of those coming against lower-ranked sides all outside the top 80.
Neither side have good recent records and both have new managers, so this could be one of those that goes the distance with the draw definitely in play.
Edin Dzeko is the stand-out name here and he scored twice in Bosnia's 2-0 win over the Northern Irish in their last meeting - at around 13/10 anytime that's one of the few things we can almost rely upon happening here.
Sarajevo won't be as intimidating without a packed stadium, but there's still enough quality to side with the hosts - Dezko being the true quality player on show, and that extra quality is often the difference in tight games like this.
Best bet: Bosnia to beat Northern Ireland at Evens
Slovakia v Republic of Ireland
- 7.45pm Sky Sports Football
- Match odds: Home 8/5 | Draw 19/10 | Away 15/8
The hosts are slight favourites but it's a 50-50 game really without a home crowd involved and with both sides returning identical qualifying records in the group stages.
I like the Republic's chances, though, with Stephen Kenny promising to go for it and Slovakia being without keeper Martin Dubravka, while star man Marik Hamsik has to get to know his team-mates again having played out in China.
Goals look to be in short supply given the stats - Ireland's last 13 competitive games have gone under 2.5 goals, while four of Slovakia's last six have gone the same way.
Under 2.5 is a 1/2 shot as a result, but if there's ever a chance for a rare Irish goal fest of sorts then it could come here, especially late on with five subs allowed and a place at Euro 2020 at stake.
Both teams to score is around even money, with bits of 11/10 around, as the outsider of two in the BTTS market, but that's actually been prolific for these two as it's happened in eight of Slovakia's last ten games, and six of Ireland's last ten.
More importantly, those last ten games show us just two clean sheets for Ireland, against Georgia and Gibraltar, and one for Slovakia, against Azerbaijan, and it's that propensity to concede goals which could see both teams find the net.
It's all a long-winded way of saying I can't call which way the game will go, if pushed I fancy Ireland to get through, but it may take extra time (either side to win in ET is 5/1) but there's relative confidence in both teams scoring, and at a backable price.
Odds correct as or 1532 BST on 7/10/20
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