Wahey, it's international break time. Okay, we'll pipe down. Let's be honest, we'd only look forward to this time of the year if England were enjoyable to watch. However, they aren't and we all prefer the domestic fixtures. Just a few games in and bam, here comes the international fixtures. Anyway, we've a host of them going on on Monday and Tuesday and instead of just previewing them all, we've picked out five of the most intriguing fixtures across and just after transfer deadline day...
Ah the Germans, so efficient, so deadly in front of goal and just so bloody good. As usual, the qualifying stage in Group C has been too easy for them. Played seven, won seven, 29 goals scored, just the two conceded. Another win will all but confirm their place in Russia for the World Cup next summer, and let’s face it, it was never in doubt.
A home clash with Norway should be routine for Die Mannschaft. They’ve beaten Norway in 15 of the 20 games played – losing only once, back in 2009. Norway’s era of the likes of Morten Gamst Pedersen, John Arne Riise, John Carew and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has gone and now the only real notable names at Joshua King of Bournemouth and ex-West Ham flop Havard Nordtvelt.
Germany will have the usual suspects playing and expect Mesut Ozil to continue his fine national team form from the back end of last week. He looks to be playing with a point to prove following Arsenal’s recent dismal record against Liverpool in the last Premier League week prior to the international break.
What We Sayin’?
As you’d expect, the hosts start as overwhelming favourites. A Both Teams Not To Score and Over 2.5 Goals looks a great way to print money at 6/4.
A pretty dismal England performance against Malta on Friday evening still got them the three points on the board, and that 4-0 away win was made to look sublime when you think of France’s even worse 0-0 draw at home to Luxembourg a couple of days later.
So, aside from sideways passing, bland play and disappointment, what can we expect from England? Well, much of the same if reports are to be believed. Jesse Lingard, Jermain Defoe and Harry Maguire are all expected to be left out of the squad for Slovakia’s trip to the capital, which means the likes of Harry Kane is likely to be leading the line on his own again. Marcus Rashford could well start whilst Eric Dier is back and available for selection following his suspension ruling him out of the trip to Malta on Friday.
A win will take England five points clear at the top with two games remaining, but Slovakia do have dangerous players who can hurt England – none more so than star midfielder Marek Hamsik, who’s performed brilliantly for Napoli for a number of years now. Ex-Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel is also expected to start at the heart of the defence.
What We Sayin’?
It will be tough and laboured by England and we have a feeling Slovakia would take the draw if offered it right now. We’re going with a 1-1 stalemate at Wembley, priced at 7/1.
Whilst we’re tipping a draw in the England vs. Slovakia match, it’ll be useless for Scotland if they aren’t to beat Malta on home turf to take advantage of any possible dropped Slovakian points. It’s got to that stage for Gordon Strachan’s side – must-win time. They turned over Lithuania on Friday evening and it remains to be seen how big a confidence boost that will have given Strachan’s troops heading into this one.
Strachan could be dicing with death coming into this one, however, with the likes of Leigh Griffiths, Charlie Mulgrew, Scott Brown, James McArthur and Grant Hanley all just the one booking away from a ban. However, following the big win in Lithuania, it’s expected the Scots will go with the same XI, with no injury worries.
What We Sayin’?
Italy were blown away in convincing fashion by Spain – or more accurately, Isco – on Saturday evening and will still hope to chase down their weekend opponents who sit at the top of Group G, three points ahead of them. To do just that and go level on points with them – if Spain lose to Liechtenstein – then they’ll have to pick up the points at home to Israel.
The Israelis have an ageing squad these days with former Premier League pair Yossi Benayoun and Tal Ben Haim still members of the current squad nowadays, even in their late 30s. Current Brighton striker Tomer Hemed is expected to lead the line in Italy, with the game must-win for the visitors if they are to stand any chance of sneaking into the World Cup Finals next summer.
What We Sayin’?
There have only ever been four meetings between these two and they’ve all been World Cup encounters. They date back to 1961, but the more important stat is that Israel have never beaten the Italians, with the last meeting resulting in a 1-3 Italian win. A scoreline is tough to predict, but we’ll give it a go by going with a 3-0 Italy win at 17/4.
Two of the teams who England have had many a battle with over the years now as Croatia, armed with their excellent midfield duo of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic head to Turkey to take on a team who they’ve never lost to in a 90 minute game in their previous eight meetings.
Croatia have a fine crop of players actually, particularly in midfield, as joining the two central midfielders Modric and Rakitic will also be the likes of Ivan Perisic and Mateo Kovacic, who represent Inter Milan and Real Madrid, respectively.
However, Turkey themselves have some fine youngsters coming through as well, which will create a nice blend alongside veterans such as Arda Turan, Emre Belozoglu and Nuri Sahin. This should be a decent game and a win for the hosts will really put them in the mix for the Finals next summer, with four teams – these two, Iceland and Ukraine – all still battling it out for a spot in Russia in under a year.
What We Sayin’?
A scoreline is difficult to predict because you never know how opposition will perform in the atmospheric Turkish stadiums. However, we’re going with a slightly safer pick of Mario Mandzukic to score first at 4/1.
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