Nick Hext backs Portugal for a big win as one of his two selections for Friday's World Cup qualifying action.
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World Cup qualifying returns to Europe on Friday night and there’s more of interest on the nine-match coupon than I first anticipated.
Sweden’s clash against leaders France in Group A (check out all of the latest standings) is the standout contest but I reckon there’s more enticing betting opportunities elsewhere.
Portugal have returned to form after losing their opening game in qualifying against Switzerland but they can’t afford any kind of slip-up away to Latvia.
The European champions sit three points behind Group B leaders Switzerland but have been netting frequently so have a vastly superior goal difference to the table-toppers.
All is set up for a huge clash between the nations in October with Portugal having home advantage, that’s as long as they remain at most three points adrift.
Portugal have claimed all of their last six victories by at least a three-goal winning margin and I’m keen on another convincing success for Fernando Santos’ men.
Latvia lost 4-1 to Portugal earlier in the qualifying campaign and their last outing was a concerning 5-0 defeat against Georgia in a friendly.
The Faroe Islands and Hungary have both claimed Group B wins in Latvia so there can’t be much of a case made for anything other than a simple victory for Portugal.
Cyprus were swatted aside 4-0 in a friendly by Portugal last weekend and a best price of odds-against has to be taken for the European champions to win by three or more goals.
I’m also going to take a chance on Bulgaria at over 2/1 to return with three points from the trip to Belarus.
More was expected from Belarus in Group A but they’ve only picked up a couple of draws in five outings to leave no chance of qualification at the halfway stage.
Bulgaria will be feeling a lot better about things. They sit only one point behind Sweden after claiming three wins from five games and victory in Belarus should see them move into a play-off place.
That’s because leaders France can be expected to get the better of Sweden in the night’s headline match.
Bulgaria beat Holland 2-0 in their last qualifying contest and they won 1-0 at home to Belarus in the clash between the nations last year.
There is a concern that Bulgaria have lost convincingly away to both France and Sweden during their bid to reach the World Cup but Belarus don’t possess as much quality as those two sides.
The price is right to show some support for Bulgaria against the out-of-form Belarussians, who have lost four matches on the spin and go down as by far the most opposable favourite on Friday’s coupon.
Where to watch on TV: All matches are live on Sky Sports, including via the Red Button.
Posted at 1445 BST on 06/06/17.