Paul Higham kicks off our daily previews for the latest Euro 2020 qualifiers as Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all face crucial games.
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Slovakia v Wales
It’s a vital game for fourth-placed Wales as their game in hand on the rest and a win would put them right back in the qualification mix and level on points with the hosts, who start the day second in Group E.
It’s an even record so far with two wins at home, two defeats away, four goals scored and four conceded and, while they’re still in a decent position there’s just that spark missing as performances have all been a bit ordinary so far.
This is their last tough away game though and a win here would be huge, but Ryan Giggs has worries over his two star men with Aaron Ramsey again slowed by injury and Gareth Bale playing but not really wanted at Real Madrid.
Slovakia are pretty strong at home as well with five wins out of their last six qualifiers, although Wales have the upper hand in head-to-heads having won the last three. The Welsh have struggled for goals but this fixture usually has them and at the price that’s worth a look.
Russia v Scotland
The Scots may have dominated this fixture at the Rugby World Cup, but it’s a completely different story with the round ball as Russia are big favourites after five straight Euro 2020 qualifying victories which have put them on the brink of qualification.
Steve Clarke’s beleaguered Scotland have lost three on the spin and, in truth, he’s better off trying to find a formula that can help them win the play-off they’ve already secured thanks to their Nations League efforts.
Russia, then, should win this, it’s just the manner of the victory and the scoreline that we need to crack – and the obvious point is that Scotland don’t score many and Russia have not conceded a home goal in their last five outings.
Saying that, Scotland did score against the Russians at home and if you watched that game you’ll perhaps recall they had plenty of shots (13) and the same shots on target as Russia (four), and with the do-or-die attitude that they’ll take to Moscow there’s enough about them to suggest they could at least get on the scoresheet.
That, coupled with the fact they’ve conceded three in Belgium and Kazakhstan recently is enough evidence to suggest a few goals and, at a slightly bigger price than the win to nil that’s the way we’re heading.
Netherlands v Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland are a whopping 14/1 to win this one – a huge price for a team leading their opponents by three points in the standings who have also lost just once so far, to Germany, in this group. The Dutch do have a game in hand though and they’ve got a vastly superior squad in terms of talent.
The two upcoming games against the Northern Irish will settle who qualifies from this group though, and after missing out on the last two major tournaments perhaps nerves will start to grow if the hosts don’t get off to a fast start.
This squad doesn’t seem one to panic, and they’ve averaged 3.5 goals a game in this group, but in Michael O’Neil’s side they face a team that doesn’t mind putting a shift in defensively even if going forward they lack a killer instinct against the big sides.
Form and stats will lead you to a Dutch win, but maybe one that they have to work hard for and they could well win it by just the odd goal or two.
Price Boost: Virgil van Dijk to score a header now 9/1
Austria v Israel
Not a fixture that leaps out at you at first glance, but it comes in a fascinating group where five of the six teams are separated by just five points meaning it’s wide open as Israel and the top scorer in Euro 2020 qualifying visit Austria.
Eran Zahavi has bagged nine goals in qualifying so far, three more than the next best, and Israel away games are usually full of goals, with five of their last seven road trips in Euro qualifying containing at least four goals in them.
While there’s no doubt the hosts are heavy favourites, there’s only one man we’re siding with to find the back of the net – with a decent price available given his goal-scoring exploits so far.
Yes, he’s not playing in the best team but strikers on a run like Zahavi usually find a way to get a goal.
Best bet: Eran Zahavi to score anytime at 14/5
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