It’ll be tight at Celtic Park between Scotland and Ireland
Three match days into the qualifying campaign for Euro 2016 and UEFA are ready to pat themselves on the back. The group leaders include Iceland, Wales, Slovakia, Northern Ireland and Austria as a string of surprise results suggest some of Europe’s smaller nations are relishing the idea of finding their way into the expanded tournament.
However, some of the shock results haven’t worked in the favour of teams that would have originally been seen as solid bets to at least make the Play-Offs. Poland’s first ever victory over Germany mixed in with the Republic of Ireland’s draw with the World Cup winners means that Scotland have lost ground to their two rivals in Group D.
Scotland win 13/10
Ireland win 11/5
(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)
Rather than seeing the Germans run off into the distance with a pristine record for far, Gordon Strachan’s men are the only yet to take points off Jogi Low and his all-conquering side from the summer. That will surely change when Gibraltar do their best to avoid a world record score against the Germans.
For Scotland it makes their clash on Friday night with Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland all the more important. Before the campaign had begun, Strachan and his coaches will have surely focused in on the team’s home form as the key to success. In the last three games played on Scottish soil, the Tartan Army have seen their side keep three consecutive clean sheets. A fourth is very much on the cards against an Irish side that have managed just four goals in their last nine on the road.
Overall, the clash between near neighbours promises to be a tight affair. With O’Neill returning to Celtic Park and the potential for some Scottish-born players in the Ireland side, it will mix for a special line-up at Celtic Park; and probably not one that encourages flowing football.
Betting Instinct tip – Less than 2.5 goals is 1/2 with AllYouBet.ag
Saturday night allows Group G to take centre with the matches split across two kick-off times. Inspired by two David Alaba penalties, Austria are leading the group from heavyweights Sweden and Russia, who have both won just one of their opening three games.
Boasting a hard-working squad made-up predominantly of players from the German and Austrian Bundesliga, we’re going to put our faith in a side that have won four and lost none of their last seven matches; especially against a team that are supposedly struggling to pay the wages of their highly-acclaimed manager.
Fabio Capello’s relationship with the Russian Football Union has never looked like the easiest of situations. Drafted in to ready a team for the impending 2018 World Cup and ensure that the host nation do everything they can to lift the trophy on home soil, Capello has failed to capture the imagination. Without a stream of exciting youngsters lighting up the Russian Premier League or any other European competition for that matter, he’s been left to pick experienced pros who will be too old for the next FIFA showcase and elect for tactics that can be described as “solid” at best.
With seven points from their opening three games and a decent enough recent home record – five wins, three draws and one defeat from the last nine – Austria may just have enough to put a little bit of daylight between them and Capello’s side.
Betting Instinct tip – Austria to win is 9/5 with AllYouBet.ag
For Belgium, there is the chance to grind their way towards top gear with a match-up against Gareth Bale’s Wales. It is terrifying just how much stock Chris Coleman appears to put in Bale’s influence on his team. So far it’s working. They have won two of their opening three games and lead the way from Israel and their opponents on Sunday.
The Red Devils’ only weakness of note is at full-back where Bale might look to exploit matters if he were playing for Real Madrid. For Wales, he moves centrally and right into the waiting arms of Axel Witsel, Marouane Fellaini and the Belgian’s centre-backs, who will in truth be far from first-choice.
It shouldn’t matter. Sadly for Wales, Gareth Bale is just one man. Even with Aaron Ramsey, there are pretty far from a full team and even further from being able to compete with the list of names that Marc Wilmots will be picking from on Sunday.
Ramsey and Bale have scored nine of Wales’ last 10 goals away from home. If Belgium can do their jobs to stop the lavish stars, they’ll stop the entire team in their tracks.
Betting Instinct tip – Belgium -1 is 4/5 with Intertops.eu
RYAN KEANEY (ryankeaney) is a huge sports fan who spends most of his week toying around with sports data. He is the editor of www.thefootballproject.net and a co-editor for In Bed with Maradona. Follow Ryan on Twitter.