Home Nations desperate for Wednesday wins
The return of international football provides four home nations with a great chance to develop after some poor results last time out. Whilst England travel to Sweden (read the preview here), Scotland hit the road to take on lowly Luxembourg, knowing that a new manager is on the horizon. For the teams from the Emerald Isle, the visit of Greece gives the Republic of Ireland hope of bouncing back from an atrocious 6-1 hammering at the hands of Germany, whilst their northern neighbours are in World Cup action, hosting Azerbaijan.
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Two years ago at Hampden Park, Scotland travelled to Liechtenstein, facing what they expected to be a routine win over one of the world's worst nations. The 97 minutes that followed are now known as some of the worst from a Scotland team in a long time, and whilst Stephen McManus nodded in the winner with the final touch of the game, a nation was embarrassed.
Somehow, it has managed to get worse since then.
A month later, Craig Levein fielded the infamous 4-6-0 formation in the Czech Republic, and although results waivered over the past two years, Levein finally faced the sack last month. So now Scotland travel to the 144th ranked Luxembourg hoping to avoid defeat, and in doing so, avoiding their worst calendar year since, ironically, 1966. Honestly, you couldn't make it up.
Of course, Scotland travel under the stewardship of interim boss Billy Stark, and have named a squad full of domestically-based players, including the uncapped Murray Davidson and Leigh Griffiths, both of whom have impressed this season in the SPL, whilst young Kilmarnock midfielder Liam Kelly is also hoping to earn his first cap in Luxembourg.
Scotland fans will, for the most part, be glad to see some of the old guard move out of this squad, as Gary Caldwell, Alan Hutton and Shaun Maloney all miss out. However, the omission of on-form goalkeeper Allan McGregor has raised some eyebrows, although giving the chance to much fancied Blackpool goalie Matt Gilks or Killie stopper Cammy Bell. Both have looked imperious at times this season and provide a selection headache for the man to take the Scotland job (Scotland 21/20 to keep a clean sheet).
Those from Luxembourg will see this as a great opportunity to announce themselves as a team who are no longer the perennial doormat. Featuring in their squad are players based in Switzerland, France, Germany, Belgium, and Sweden, whilst it is 20 year old Maurice Deville who is likely to cause the Scottish defence the most trouble (Maurice Deville is 10/3 to score).
Yet, the Tartan Army will, naturally, expect a win, and although they possess a young squad, it is expect to out-muscle their European opponents. Jordan Rhodes has seen the his potential to be a prolific goalscorer in the past, and if he can replicate that electrifying form in a Scotland win, £10 would win you £35 as we have enhanced his Anytime Wincast price to 5/2 (from 7/4).
Worth a punt: 16/5 on Draw/Scotland Double Result
Coverage of this match can be found on ESPN, kicking off at the unusual time of 19:15.
The Northern Irish football team had struggled to scrape any respectability away from poor results against the Netherlands and Norway, yet a resilient draw against Finland was swiftly followed up by afantastic draw in Portugal, a result that could set up Michael O'Neill up for a long tenure as NI manager.
And now the Boys in Green continue their World Cup Qualifying campaign at home, and will relish the opportunity to pull away from their rivals towards the lower end of Group F with a win over Azerbaijan, and with only one loss in six home World Cup qualifiers O'Neill's side will be fancied to grab more points.
It has been a tough few years for the Northern Irish team, and whilst they can't realistically expect to reach Brazil in 2014, they would love to avoid embarrassment, starting at Windsor Park against the Azeris. A result here may rely on the goalscoring ability of big FC Sion front man Kyle Lafferty, who is 5/2 to net in a win for the home team (from 7/4).
Last month's hero in Portugal is Aberdeen striker Niall McGinn, who is currently enjoying a great run of form, having found the net eight times in his past ten games, and would love to help his team to a win, O'Neill's first as manager, and in the process helping them to their first three game unbeaten run in two years.
Worth a punt: 15/2 that Northern Ireland win 2/1
Coverage of this game is on Sky Sports 2, kicking off at 19:45.