I had yet another profitable weekend of football betting tips last time around with Tottenham beating Huddersfield Town to nil and Newcastle and Liverpool finishing in a score draw. Those two cracking tips saw me earn another very solid profit as we head into another international break.
This time around, things should be markedly more interesting as it is the final set of games in the European Qualifying section for the World Cup Finals. After the two matches played this week, we should know the nine group winners, plus the eight teams that will contest the playoffs to join them next summer in Russia.
With so much to play for across the six days of action, it should be an enthralling end to the qualifiers. Here’s how I see things going in some of the crunch games taking place from Thursday to Saturday in the first round of fixtures.
International Qualifier Tips: Thursday 5th October
October 5, 2017
October 5, 2017
The teams have met five times previously, England winning four with one goalless draw in the last match between the teams in World Cup Qualifying in Ljubliana.
England make the trip without many players through injury including Rose, Lallana, Clyne, Barkley, Heaton, Drinkwater and Welbeck.
England need just two points in their last two games to be certain of being group winners. Though one point should be enough to win on goal difference.
Slovenia are challenging with Scotland and Slovakia for what will likely be the second spot in the group and a place in the playoffs.
A win for England here would not only put them into the World Cup Finals, but also enhance Scotland and Slovakia’s chances of claiming a playoff spot behind them. Defeat for England would put Slovenia in a strong position to claim at least a playoff spot and leave England needing a win in Lithuania.
There’s no doubt England should win this game but with so many players injured and the insipid and somewhat dour performances in recent matches, even when winning, it is unlikely to be a glorious stroll to Russia this summer.
Slovenia would love a point here to give them something to chase in their final game with Scotland next week. I expect them to sit deep and try and catch England on the counter and given England’s defensive woes, I do expect them to find the net and make life uncomfortable.
However, at home England do have a good record against lesser teams in qualifying and so I am expecting the in-form Harry Kane to grab a double and put England into the finals in Russia next summer.
England To Win & Both Teams To Score - £10 returns £36.00
Scotland are unbeaten in their last five games, winning three in that time. Both teams have won three of their last four matches.
The teams have only met once previously in the first game in this group between the teams, which Slovakia won comfortably 3-0 in October last year.
Scotland have 14 points from 8 games, Slovakia 15 points from 8. A win for Scotland combined with a draw or loss for Slovenia would put them 2nd in the group.
A win for Slovakia, combined with a loss for Slovenia at Wembley, would ensure Slovakia claim a place in the playoffs.
This is a must win game for Scotland as they take on the team currently in second place in the group, just one point ahead of them in qualifying. Slovakia know a win here, combined with a win for England at Wembley, would be enough to see them into the playoffs.
Gordon Strachan’s team have bounced back following two 3-0 defeats to Slovakia and England last October and are unbeaten in five games, winning three and there is real optimism that the Scots have enough to get the win they need here to give themselves a fighting chance.
Slovakia haven’t travelled well at times, a notable example being a 6-0 defeat in Sweden, but they looked dangerous and durable against England and have a team packed with top-level experience in the likes of Hamsik, Weiss, Skrtel and the hugely talented Milan Skriniar.
Unfortunately, Scotland have a long history of capitulating in crucial home games such as this and I just fear their necessity for a win, could be their undoing. Slovakia are very dangerous on the counter and have some excellent players and I think they will swing the tie in their favour.
Slovakia To Win & Both Teams To Score - £10 returns £70.00
Wales are sweating on the fitness of star player Gareth Bale who missed Real Madrid’s match at the weekend with a minor injury.
Wales are unbeaten in eight group games but have drawn five, winning three, while Georgia have also drawn five, but lost three. The teams drew 1-1 in Cardiff last October.
Wales lie four points behind Serbia in Group D on 14 points, just one ahead of the Republic of Ireland who have 13. Those two teams meet in the final game in the group next week.
The Welsh have never beaten Georgia in four attempts, losing three games and drawing their last match – a game Georgia should really have won.
The Welsh have an absolutely rotten record against Georgia, losing three games (one of them a 5-0 mauling) and drawing just one of the four games played between them. In Cardiff, that 1-1 draw was also somewhat fortuitous for the home side as Georgia were much the better side that night.
Since then though Wales form has improved slightly and they remain unbeaten in the group having picked up two vital wins in their past two games against Austria and Moldova. Another win here could see Wales guarantee themselves a playoff spot at least, if the Republic of Ireland fail to pick up something at home to Moldova.
However, crucial to Wales success is the fitness of Gareth Bale and doubts about how fit he will be to play for his nation do make me worry for Wales here. Especially against opponents who they have historically struggled against.
A fully-fit and in form Bales and I’d have gone for the Wales win here. As it is, I think the draw given the past record of both these teams, is likely the smarter bet here.
France and Bulgaria have met 21 times in total, France winning nine, Bulgaria eight and there have been four draws between the teams.
One of the worst results in French history occurred in Nov 1993 when Emil Kostadinov’s late goal gave Bulgaria a 2-1 win in Paris and saw France miss out on World Cup 1994.
France won the reverse fixture between the teams 4-1 back in October last year.
France are top of Group A on 17 points ahead of Sweden on 16, Netherlands on 13 and Bulgaria on 12. A win here plus defeat for Sweden would qualify France for Russia 2018.
One of the darkest days in French football was inflicted by Bulgaria when Gerard Houllier’s talented side conceded a late winner to Bulgaria which put Bulgaria through and eliminated France from USA 1994. If there is any team France would like a little revenge against, maybe it is Bulgaria.
Sofia though is no easy place to go and win as Sweden and the Netherlands have found in qualifying. France’s form too has been erratic with good wins over England and the Netherlands followed up by a staggering 0-0 draw at home to the group minnows Luxembourg the last time out.
Consistency is not the strength of either team, and France will also miss the influence of Paul Pogba who is injured. That said, the French have by far the stronger team and should be confident of getting a win here to at least keep themselves top of the group heading into the final round of games next week.
I don’t reckon a shaky French defence will keep Bulgaria from scoring, but I think a very talented French attack will put an equally poor Bulgarian back line to the sword enough to get the win here.
France To Win & Both Teams To Score - £10 returns £32.00
The Cheeky Punter is an professional online sports bettor and trader with over 15 years of experience in the industry. He has worked for a number of top bookmakers including Ladbrokes, William Hill and Coral. He's also written for a number of leading news outlets including the Guardian, i (newspaper) and Soccer Lens. More about him here.