How good is it that it's time for yet another international break? After all, it's so great watching England's fluid football under supremo Gareth Southgate. We cannot wait, as England at Wembley are always worth watching...
Aside from that, there are plenty of other games, but we've selected a fantastic five fixtures to get our teeth into, so without further ado, let's get going!
The top two meet in Group C at Windsor Park and the hosts know a win against a German side who have won all eight of their Qualifying games so far will still give them an outside chance of topping the group. We know what the Germans are like though; ruthless, resilient, efficient and, well, just German. They know what to do and more often than not they just get the job done.
However, Northern Ireland have won their last five games in all competitions and haven’t conceded a goal in that time. In fact, the last time they let in a goal at Windsor Park was against Croatia way back in November 2016. Germany beat them 2-0 on their own turf, which was to be expected, but many have tried – and failed – to beat Norn Iron in Belfast and this certainly won’t be easy for the Germans.
What We Sayin’?
We’re plumping for a draw in this one. That home record Northern Ireland have shouldn’t go un-noticed and German stars such as Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler and Thomas Muller definitely won’t have it easy. A 1-1 scoreline is a whopping 17/2.
England’s squad announcement last week caused a lot of debate – and disappointment, when you consider the national team has gone from Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes as central midfield options and now have Jordan Henderson, Jake Livermore, Harry Winks and Eric Dier.
A win will ensure England reach Russia in the summer but Slovenia won’t be pushovers, as they know a win for themselves – and Slovakia dropping points – will put them into second place with just one match remaining in Group F. England do come into this one with players – such as Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford – all in good form, but Slovenia have a world class goalkeeper in the form of Atletico Madrid stopper Jan Oblak, who England will do well to get past.
What We Sayin’?
It’s never comfortable or easy when watching England and we don’t think this will be clear cut. We’re opting for a 3-1 win at Wembley at 11/1, and with it, book their place at the World Cup next summer.
Elsewhere in Group F, Scotland somehow still have a chance of making it to Russia but really need to win their last two games of Qualifying to have any opportunity of going to a first tournament since the late 90s. They’ll hope home advantage plays a part in this one, and they gain at least a point from this one to set up a big finale away in Slovenia.
One thing which will give Scotland heart is the fact they have never lost to Slovenia in the four games played, but first and foremost comes this test against Slovakia, who they’ve played once and lost 0-3 in the game in eastern Europe just over a year ago. They’ll be seeking revenge, for sure, but they’re also in desperate need of the win. It should be a decent game at Hampden Park with a good atmosphere, but they’ll need a fast start to really get the fans onside early doors.
What We Sayin’?
We have a feeling this one will end in a draw, but our selection is for Robert Snodgrass to score first at 13/2. The on loan Aston Villa man is always a threat both in open play and from set pieces.
In a similar boat to Scotland are the Republic of Ireland in Group D, with Martin O’Neill’s side sitting in third, but knowing a win against bottom of the table Moldova – who have just two points in Qualifying – will make the final game a huge one if the Wales result goes their way. Ireland are without a win in their last four, which is one reason why the Welsh – under Chris Coleman have leapfrogged them into second following two consecutive wins.
Wales shouldn’t have any problems in beating Georgia away, which is why it’s imperative that O’Neill’s side produce the good on home soil and ideally rack up a big win to boost the goal difference. They shouldn’t have doubts over beating a Moldova side who lack star names, but will – like Scotland – need a good start to the game. If it gets to the hour and it’s still 0-0 – at best – then the hosts’ fans could turn against them.
What We Sayin’?
The hosts to nick this one, but we doubt it’ll be pretty. It’ll be a nervy 12/1 3-1 win. Any win will do for Ireland on the night.
There’s been a lot of conflict in Spain in a political sense this week and the atmosphere is sure to be a strange one for their game against Albania in Alicante. Training earlier this week lasted just the 23 minutes, with Gerard Pique a target of abuse following the Catalonia elections. The national team will also be without regular right back Dani Carvajal, with the Real Madrid man out indefinitely for club and country with a heart problem.
Albania showed at Euro 2016 in France that they can play a bit and have Taulant Xhaka – brother of Granit – in midfield, whilst Napoli’s attacking right back Elseid Hysaj at the back, too, who could well take advantage of Spain left back Jordi Alba’s attacking style. This may be a tricky clash for Julen Lopetegui’s men, whose preparation has been hampered in the build up to this one and the atmosphere down on the east coast of Spain for the game could well be a strange one.
What We Sayin’?
Spain top the group and have won all six of their meetings with Albania, conceding just twice to them in that time. They’ve conceded one more than that in the Group so far and will have too much for them, but it won’t be as one-sided as many will predict. A 3-0 Spain win is a 7/2 shot.
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