By Danny Carrington
Last Updated: 9th October 2019
The Premier League takes a back seat as we head into the international break, with six consecutive days of Euro 2020 qualifiers on offer for us to dig our teeth into. All four home nations are in action across the coming days – we take a look at their chances for the upcoming matches.
Final throw of the dice for Scotland
While qualification for Euro 2020 is still mathematically possible, Steve Clarke may see his side’s upcoming clashes away in Russia on Thursday and at home to San Marino on Sunday as a way of building towards a brighter future. Scotland are currently fifth in Group I, sitting 12 points off top spot and nine points off second, having lost four from six.
Saying that, this week does still offer up a final throw of the dice for Clarke, who will surely be demanding victory at home to San Marino, a team that have lost six from six and have yet to register a goal this qualifying campaign.
The match against Russia in Moscow is likelier to determine their fate. The Scots succumbed to a 2-1 defeat to Stanislav Cherchesov’s side last time out with the hosts 1/2 favourites to edge this one once more. Scotland are 6/1 with the draw 3/1.
England to march on
It’s a stag do double-header for England this weekend to mark Gareth Southgate’s three-year anniversary in the job. Friday night’s match in Prague is followed by a trip to Sofia on Monday night as the Three Lions take on Czech Republic and Bulgaria respectively – teams they’ve plundered a combined nine goals against in qualifying already this campaign with no reply.
Those 5-0 (Czech Republic) and 4-0 (Bulgaria) routs have helped contribute to England’s 100% record in this qualifying campaign, which sees them sit top of Group A with four wins from four.
If previous results are not enough to inspire confidence in the Three Lions in both games, then the fact they haven’t lost a qualifying match since 2009 – a run of 43 games – should do the trick. They’re 2/5 to see off Czech Republic – a result that would seal their qualification.
Northern Ireland up against it
Poor old Northern Ireland. In most of the other Euro 2020 qualifying groups, four wins from their opening five and a total of 12 points would be enough to put them in a commanding position to qualify for next summer’s showpiece.
Not in Group C, however, where Michael O’Neill’s team are up against it, sandwiched in second between international heavyweights Germany and Holland, while still having to face both teams (Holland twice) in their remaining three fixtures.
It’s a Thursday night trip to Rotterdam up first against a Dutch team that sit three points behind the Green and White Army having played a game less, and one that these days is blessed with an array of stunning talent, including Virgil van Dijk, Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt to name a few.
Odds of 3/20 for Holland to come out on top and 16/1 for a Northern Ireland victory shows the magnitude of the task at hand for O’Neill’s men, but don’t completely discount a side that made it to the knockout stages of the last European Championships.
Time to deliver for Wales
It’s crunch time for Wales.
Six points from four games leaves Ryan Giggs’ side sitting second-bottom in Group E, though in a tight pool they are just three points off second-placed Slovakia and four adrift of table-toppers Croatia – the two nations Wales have to do battle with this week. Giggs will be encouraged that his men have their fate in their own hands, but there is little margin for error.
A trip to Slovakia is on the cards first, who they beat 1-0 back in March thanks to a Daniel James winner. Wales come into this one, though, with key men Aaron Ramsey struggling for fitness and Gareth Bale struggling for form, something which could give the hosts the edge. Slovakia are narrow favourites at 29/20, with Wales 2/1 for the win.
With things only getting tougher three days later against World Cup finalists Croatia in Cardiff, Giggs will be targeting all three points in Trnava.