The third matchday of Euro 2020 qualifiers concludes on Saturday when the five groups who were not in action on Friday play on what should be an exciting day of football with plenty of big nations on show.
As well as some big guns in action we also have three Home Nations gracing pitches around Europe and with three different kick off times there is plenty to enjoy on a seriously good looking Saturday fayre.
With the Netherlands preparing for the Nations League final we are left with the other four sides to compete in the two matches in this group. Northern Ireland are in action in the first match in it when they head to Tallinn to take on an Estonia side they know they must beat. Germany then take centre stage in the other game when they go up against Belarus with the same thing applying to them in terms of needing to win.
There are just the two matches in this group too with one of them coming in the very early afternoon kick off. That sees Wales in action when they face what is the trickiest test in their group on paper as they head to Osijek to take on World Cup finalists Croatia. The other match sees Azerbaijan meeting Hungary in a match I dare say both sides will believe they can come out victorious in.
This is the group where the world champions France are housed and their third match of the qualifying campaign sees them head to Turkey in the one evening kick off from the three games. First up Iceland will look to get back on track when they play host to an Albania side who have slid a little since their time competing in Euro 2016. The other match sees the two minnows going at it when Moldova take on Andorra.
Scotland begin life under Steve Clarke in this group and on paper at least they have a very winnable game. They play host to Cyprus in a game they have to win after a poor start to their campaign. Belgium is next on the horizon for Scotland but before then the World Cup semi-finalists host Kazakhstan. The early match in the group sees a much improved Russia side hosting the minnows San Marino who could be a bit of cannon fodder for the 2018 World Cup hosts.
Italy will be keen to qualify for Euro 2020 and in a competitive group they know they can’t afford too much in the way of slip ups so they will be looking to avoid one when they travel to Greece. Two sides who had very encouraging Nations League campaigns meet in one of the earlier starts when Finland host Bosnia-Herzegovina while the other match sees the two also-rans taking each other on when Armenia welcome the challenge of Liechtenstein.
There are a number of bets that I like on this card with the first of them coming in the Croatia against Wales match where I think the visitors have found the ideal time to be taking on Luka Modric and co. This isn’t the Croatia side that made the World Cup final as we saw in the Nations League and indeed the first two qualifiers of this campaign and they will be without Ivan Rakitic and Ante Rebic for this match which are huge blows. Admittedly Wales would have preferred to have Aaron Ramsey fit but they do have Gareth Bale with a point to prove and a number of improving youngsters who are more established at a good level now. You can get Wales on a +1 line on the Asian handicaps which means we lose nothing if they go down by a goal. If they avoid defeat we win in full and that will do me.
I fear for San Marino when they make the trip to Russia on Saturday. In the last 12 months they have shipped five in Belarus and Cyprus and three in Luxembourg and they could take another pasting here. In an ideal world Russia would have Denis Cheryshev available for this match but it is hard to believe they will miss him too much here. Russia won 4-0 in Kazakhstan in their last game and I’ve got to believe they’ll add a couple more onto that in a group where goal difference could be important. The -5 Asian line on Russia looks fine to me.
Northern Ireland know that if they are going to qualify for Euro 2020 they can’t afford to slip up in Tallinn against Estonia and having already beaten the same opponent once in this group I expect them to go and win again. It might not be completely convincing given the need to win but Estonia are in a hole at the minute. The Estonians did conclude their Nations League group with a win over Greece but the Greeks were eliminated by then and sacked it off. In a tight game I think Northern Ireland will find enough to win.
Scotland are in much the same situation as Northern Ireland when they host Cyprus and I’m going to back them to cover a 1.25 goal handicap. After the defeat in Kazakhstan and not really filling their boots against San Marino, Scotland have to win this well and with the confidence Clarke has brought the camp that is what I expect them to do. As you would expect Cyprus are a poor side away from home so they should be there for the taking. Scotland have Andrew Robertson in their ranks for this game and with the likes of Ryan Fraser, James Forrest and Johnny Russell all in good form I expect them to have more than enough to take care of Cyprus.
PUSH – Back Wales (+1AH) to beat Croatia for a 4/10 stake at 1.75 with ComeOn
Back them here:
WON – Back Russia (-5AH) to beat San Marino for a 4/10 stake at 1.77 with BetVictor
HALF LOSS – Back Scotland (-1.25AH) to beat Cyprus for a 4/10 stake at 1.84 with BetVictor
WON – Back Northern Ireland to beat Estonia for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with Coral