Home Nations World Cup Qualifiers - Betting Preview
All the home nations are in action this Friday night and despite Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all looking out of contention for qualification (Scotland are the only team mathematically out of contention) they can still have a big influence on the outcome of their Groups and positive results at this level are always welcome. England and Republic of Ireland are in the middle of very tough campaigns in their respective groups and will be looking for maximum points to keep up their chances of making Brazil 2014.
The main news about this match is that Gareth Bale is available for Wales after signing for Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee from Spurs. Wales' star man is 5/1 to open the scoring, 5/4 to score anytime and with our enhanced OPTA offer Bale is 6/1 to score two or more against the country propping up Group A. It's unlikely to be an easy match for Wales, though. First of all, Bale is unlikely to be at his sparkling best for his first run out of the season. Secondly, Macedonia (13/10) are no mugs, especially at home. They have beaten Serbia in Skopje, while also losing tight matches against runaway group leaders Belgium and Croatia. It might be worth taking a risk on Wales at 12/5 to win the match, but if Bale doesn't fire on all cylinders it's hard to see where the goals will come from. Just in case he doesn't, back under 1.5 goals at 7/4.
Northern Ireland (9/1) ended a barren run of form with a fantastic victory over Russia last month. That result helped Portugal (4/11) keep their lead at the top of Group F and the visitors will be determined to claim victory at Windsor Park to keep their hopes of automatic qualification alive. Northern Ireland managed a highly creditable draw in Portugal last October and a repeat of that result is tempting at a price of 7/2. A great bet in this match looks to be our Opta offer of under 2 goals in the match at 5/2, especially considering that just 14 goals have been scored in nine previous World Cup qualifiers between the two sides. If Portugal win, Cristiano Ronaldo will likely get in on the act and the evens about him to score and Portugal to win looks a decent price. Portugal striker Helder Postiga scored twice for Valencia against Barcelona in his last match and could be value at 3/1 to score first. The in form striker is 16/1 to score a hat-trick, but that could be asking a lot.
Republic of Ireland (19/10) and Sweden (13/8) are in a titanic tussle for the play-offs along with Austria. All three currently sit on 11 points in Group C behind Germany, who are unlikely to be caught at the top unless they slip up massively. These two played out a 0-0 draw in Solna in March and the fans at least will be praying for more of a spectacle. The draw looks a decent option in this match at 2/1, with 0-0 a possible bet at 8/1 considering Ireland's excellent record of clean sheets against the Swedes. The home side have kept three consecutive clean sheets against Sweden and are 9/4 with our OPTA offer to do the same again. If you expect goals in this match, over 2.5 looks decent value at 23/20, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic (who has scored 5 in his last 2 matches for Sweden) is value at 6/5 to score anytime.
Every point counts for England as they battle to win Group H against Montenegro and Ukraine, while even Poland are still in with a chance. They hammered Moldova away from home 5-0 last September and will be hoping for a similar result to boost their goal difference. In fact, 5-0 is 10/1 and might be worth a small interest, as is over 3.5 goals at what look like great odds of 19/20. The home team are too short at 1/20 to win the match but will no doubt be the cornerstone of many acca's, which are all subject to our fantastic Acca Insurance. Ricky Lambert is set to start for England and after his match-winning performance on debut against Scotland he is 9/2 in the first goalscorer market in this match, which looks like a decent value option.
Scotland (9/2) take on a Belgium (3/4) side that has improved beyond recognition from the last time the two sides met at Hampden (2-2 draw in 2001). Despite being unable to qualify or even make the play-offs in this campaign, Scotland will certainly take positives from their recent 3-2 defeat to England and their 1-0 away win against Croatia. They also still have a decent home record, losing just once in their last nine matches. The draw looks the bet in this match at tempting odds of 13/5. Belgium have the firepower and quality throughout their side to tear Scotland apart and in Christian Benteke they have one of the best strikers in Europe at the moment. He's 5/4 to score anytime and that price is worth taking advantage of.
England v Moldova - over 3.5 goals at 19/20
Scotland v Belgium - draw at 13/5.