Tuesday sees Home Nations travel on the Road to Rio
Three games into their World Cup 2014 qualification campaign, England have looked convincing against minnows San Marino and Moldova; however a poor home draw against Ukraine in September sets a worrying precedent for performances against stronger sides in their group.
As they headed into hosting the most recent European Championships, Poland weren't tipped to even compete in a group that pitted tem against the Czech Republic, Greece, and Russia. However, attacking stalwarts Robert Lewandowski and Jakub ‘Kuba' Blaszczykowski shone throughout the group stage as Poland headed to a somewhat inevitable early exit.
After a change at the managerial position, the team's qualification campaign started well in Montenegro with a 2-2 followed by a less convincing 2-0 win over Moldova. Now, the Poles, led by Anderlecht defender Marcin Wasilewski, host the English looking to stamp their authority in a group that is eminently winnable for both teams.
With Kuba missing, the onus rests upon Dortmund hitman Lewandowski to deliver Poland's goals, and averaging just under 1 goal in every 3 games, and is currently priced at 7/4 with William Hill to score anytime, and 6/1 to score the first goal.
For England, rebounding from a low-key yet convincing 5-0 win over San Marino is not an easy task against any opponent, but in their 11th World Cup qualification encounter, England will look to avoid only a second loss. Currently priced at EVS to win, England look like a strong bet, having already notched up 10 competitive victories over their Polish opponents.
Earning his 99th cap, Steven Gerrard is the centre of William Hill's enhanced offer surrounding this game, and if he can score in an England win, all bets will be paid at 7/1. The Liverpool captain has often been accused of under-performing, however after recently stepping to take the national captaincy, is on the verge of scoring his 20th goal.
With 5 goals in 15 World Cup qualifiers, Jermain Defoe is always a goal threat when he pulls on an England shirt, and although he is not a shoe in to start up front with Wayne Rooney, he is second behind the Manchester United striker in the goalscorers betting, priced at 6/1 to net a brace.
Tip of the Game: England to win 2-1 at 8/1.
Worth a punt: Double Result: Poland/England at 28/1.
On Friday night against Wales, Scotland's control on the tie loosened dramatically as Gareth Bale first scored a penalty, and then late on dazzled the defence before finishing with power and finesse from 35 yards to end the Scots hope of their first win of this qualifying campaign, but now Levein's men travel to Belgium to take on a side who arguably have the best chance in a generation to not only qualify for a World Cup, but advance further than in recent memory.
After nearly a year of derision from Scottish fans, Craig Levein faces an uphill task in turning his side's poor form around, and whilst many believe that under his current tactics, such a change isn't possible, the return of Fletchers Steven and Darren will be a boost to a squad sorely lacking creativity and a goalscoring touch. Without a win in over 60 years on Belgian turf, the omens aren't good for the Tartan Army as they look to avoid further road blues.
For Marc Wilmots, the reign of his national team couldn't have started more successfully, and after three years as an assistant, he is unbeaten as full time manager and is in charge of an exciting squad. Boasting players who ply their trade worldwide, the team comfortably beat Serbia in Belgrade last Friday, with Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke and Everton front man Kevin Mirallas both on the scoresheet.
Unbeaten in 10 home games, a run that has included five wins, the ‘Red Devils' are fronted by Chelsea dynamo Eden Hazard, who is currently priced at 2/1 to score in a home win, and could be partnered by controversial Gent forward Ilombe Mboyo, who after a spell in prison has shone in the Jupiler League, scoring for fun, but yet to receive a cap, and is worth a few on anytime goalscorer.
For the Scots, creative midfielder James Morrison has often shone in the Premier League and after a goal in Cardiff only a few days ago, he is priced at 11/2 to score anytime, and 14/1 to score first.
Tip of the Game: Under 1.5 goals at 11/4.
Worth a punt: Moussa Dembele/Belgium 1-0 in First Goal Scorecast at 25/1.
Well, as the pressure mounted on Chris Coleman, he replaced his national captain, and continued to play in a similar fashion as before, however after a great display by Gareth Bale, Wales beat Celtic rivals Scotland last weekend, and now look to consolidate that win, but face an uphill battle as they travel to Croatia.
The Croatians possess a consummate balance of flair and power, and with metronomic midfielder Luka Modric key to their intent, and as one of their most experienced players, will be expected to dictate the pace, but since returning to the international fold, it is ex Arsenal striker Eduardo who is seen as the major goal threat, with 25 in his 52 caps. The Shakhtar Donetsk front man is EVS to score anytime, and may see his chances snatched by in-form Everton striker Nikica Jelavic who is enhanced from EVS as part of William Hill's Anytime Wincast, priced at 5/4.
Since losing to England at home in 2008, the Blazers are unbeaten in 10 in competitive home games, however have suffered friendly defeats to Switzerland and Sweden in that time. However, Wales' atrocious away form has seen them lose six of their last seven, with the only relief being a 1-0 win in Bulgaria a year ago.
Gareth Bale appears to be central to the Welsh game plan, having scored every away goal since 2009 (3), when Aaron Ramsey netted against the giants of Liechtenstein. In a free role, the Real Madrid target is a constant threat, but without support will struggle in hostile conditions, such as those he may face in Zagreb.
To stand any realistic chance of qualifying from this group, Wales will need to win this. For Croatia, a win is also imperative knowing that their upcoming fixtures against rivals Serbia could prove crucial to ether team's aspirations of finishing in the top two.
Tip of the Game: Croatia -2 goals at 11/5.
Worth a punt: Wales/Croatia Double Result at 20/1.