Five games to watch this weekend: England face Belgium as Scotland chase more success
We take a look at this weekend’s biggest fixtures.
England and Belgium are becoming familiar foes, after facing each other twice in the 2018 World Cup and being drawn in the same Nations League Group – but who’ll come out on top on Sunday evening?
Elsewhere, Scotland face Slovenia as they look to build on Thursday’s momentous win, while Wales could take a step toward promotion by besting a beleaguered Rep. of Ireland.
Read on for mini-previews of each of these games and two more of the weekend’s must-watch matches.
Belgium remain the world’s number one ranked team as they take on England, who ran out 2-1 winners when they met back in October.
Belgium are 27/20 to get their revenge with a win here, while England are 2/1 to win once more, with the draw at 23/10.
Belgium aren’t a nation with a truly elite history at international level – having never won the World Cup or European Championships. But as of now, they possess one of the most talented squads in the world.
It would be considered an opportunity squandered if a side with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku were never to win a trophy. They probably have their sights aimed a little higher than the Nations League – but victory here could set them on a path to Euro 2020 success.
As for England, the usual questions will be asked before the game. Will Gareth Southgate stick with the 3-4-3 he used against Rep. of Ireland? Will Jack Grealish start? Will he keep faith with Jordan Pickford until the Euros? Our odds suggest he’ll stick with the troubled stopper – who is 1/2 to start in the Euro 2020 opener against Croatia.
Scotland will be riding high after their historic win on Thursday that saw them qualify for a major international tournament for the first time since France ’98.
And a victory over Slovakia here could see them promoted to the top tier of the Nations League, but will they have the appetite after such a draining Thursday evening?
Slovakia are 17/10 to win, with 11/5 about the draw and Scotland at 33/20 to win.
Slovakia also played on Thursday with a 2-1 victory over Northern Ireland securing their spot at Euro 2020. But in the Nations League they’ve found their group tough going so far, with just one point on the board after four games.
With two tired, elated teams going head to head, this could be a bit of a slog and you can back a draw with under 2.5 goals at 14/5.
Wales are another team gunning for Nations League promotion and face a struggling Ireland in the first of two home games to conclude their group.
Ireland’s struggles in front of goal are well-documented by now and their poor display against England on Thursday will do little to boost their morale.
Wales are the 11/10 favourites here, with the draw at 2/1 and a Rep. of Ireland win at 3/1.
Gareth Bale has begun to find his feet at Spurs and a fit and firing Bale could mean all the difference to Wales, who sit one point above League B Group 4 rivals Finland.
For Ireland this could be about damage limitation, they’re now six games without a win and will be without midfielder Alan Browne who was withdrawn from the squad after to a positive test for Covid-19.
Both sides are tied at the top of League A Group 3 on 10 points, and the winner of this game will likely claim the top spot overall, with a superior head-to-head record.
Portugal are 11/8 to win, with both the draw and a France win at 21/10.
France slipped to a shock 2-0 defeat against Finland on Wednesday, with profligate finishing largely to blame. They had 24 shots to Finland’s 6, with both teams registering just 3 on target.
Their opponents on the other hand, had no trouble finding the net in their warm-up game as they unsportingly trounced minnows Andorra 7-0, registering an obscene 622 passes and racking up 84% possession in the process.
Friendlies aside, this should be one of the weekend’s most competitive games – both sides have a clear goal in sight and both will want to start finding their form ahead of Euro 2020.
Poland are currently the unlikely leaders of League A Group 1 – largely thanks to beating Bosnia and Herzegovina twice. They did hold Italy to a 0-0 draw in their last meeting, but will need a result against either Italy on Sunday or Netherlands on Wednesday to keep the top spot.
Italy are 7/10 to win, with 5/2 about the draw and a Poland win a 9/2.
Italy will know that Netherlands are likely to beat Bosnia in the group’s other weekend tie and that adds to the pressure for them to perform here.
Both teams won in their warm-up friendlies and while Italy are the heavy favourites, three draws so far suggest a lack of cutting edge.
They may be boosted by the return of Ciro Immobile, with the Lazio striker initially unable to link up with the squad thanks to a positive Covid-19 test. If he’s given the all clear, their attacking options suddenly look a lot more threatening.
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All odds and markets correct as of date of publication