1 Can Scotland Keep Out Europe’s Most Lethal Marksman?
Twelve goals in four games. Twelve in four. Say that out loud. It’s just, weird, isn’t it?
Basically, in Germany right now Robert Lewandowski is Luis Suarez and everybody else is Norwich City. The Bayern Munich forward is in such staggering form that no-one can stop him, with Scotland the latest team to try.
The Scots know that anything other than a win over Poland at Hampden Park is likely to spell the end of their hopes of making it to the big UK party in France next summer, and with Lewandowski around, they are likely to have to score at least twice to earn that victory.
Robert Lewandowski to score at any time 2.50
2 Ireland Seek To Lay A Three-Year Ghost To Rest
It’s almost three years to the day since a German team on their way to World Cup glory pitched up in Dublin and battered Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland 6-1.
In many ways it was a forerunner to the Belo Horizonte battering of Brazil 21 months later, but bar when facing the hapless Gibraltar there have been no similar showings from Germany in what has been a fascinating Group D.
A draw would secure qualification, and that coupled with Ireland’s determination to avoid an embarrassment could combine for a share of the spoils – just as the Irish earned in Gelsenkirchen last year.
3 Albania Prepare To Fly Into The Finals
You’ll remember the Belgrade meeting of Serbia and Albania as the evening when a drone flying overhead caused a riot, an abandonment and the subsequent awarding of three points to the Albanians.
But even without those points, Gianni De Biasi’s side would still be flying high in Group I, from which they can take a step closer to qualifying should they beat a Serbia outfit which has greatly disappointed in this campaign.
Win this – their game in hand over Denmark – and they can almost touch France and a first major tournament. They’ll feel as though they’ve got wings.
Albania to win 2.70
4 Belfast Prepares For A Party
The development work at Belfast’s Windsor Park is about to get a serious test.
Anything which isn’t nailed down or safely clicked into place could find that it is rocked off its hinges if Northern Ireland qualify for their first ever European Championship finals with a win over Greece on Friday night.
And given that Michael O’Neill’s men are playing with a passion rarely seen from any international side, and that a hapless Greece have lost home and away to the Faroe Islands just 11 years on from that unforgettable Euro 2004 triumph, you might need to put your hard hats on.
Northern Ireland to win 2.50
5 Can Vardy & Ings Make Themselves Undroppable?
England are playing too.
It’s not Roy Hodgson’s fault that his side’s group has been so boringly uneventful as the Three Lions have flat-track bullied their way to the finals, but after Wayne Rooney broke the much-discussed goalscoring record in the last round of matches it is a little difficult to drum up excitement for Estonia’s trip to Wembley on Friday night.
It’ll be an unforgettable evening for Jamie Vardy or Danny Ings if they were to get on the scoresheet, though, and with Daniel Sturridge on the way back – as Ings is acutely aware – then one or both might need a goal to stay in Hodgson’s thoughts.
Jamie Vardy to score and England to win 2.23
6 Slovakia’s Five-Year Plan Nears Completion
Ask someone to name the teams who reached the last-16 stage of the 2010 World Cup and it might be a long time before you hear them suggest Slovakia.
Disappointing campaigns in attempting to qualify for Euro 2012 and the last World Cup have now given way to this sustained effort in Group C, which has looked hugely impressive ever since beating Spain last year.
A place in France will be secured with a win at home to Belarus, and that five-year plan will have come to fruition.
Slovakia to win 1.55
7 Thiago Adds A Dash Of Romanticism To La Roja
Thiago Alcantara is back in a Spain squad for the first time in 19 months, and for that we should all be grateful.
Injuries to Andres Iniesta and Koke have opened up a spot for the classy Bayern Munich midfielder in Vicente Del Bosque’s plans, and after playing 10 times for Bayern this season he is in line for an appearance as the Spanish host Luxembourg in Logrono, and surely beat them heavily.
Spain -4 to win 2.30
8 Dutch Dignity Is On The Line In Astana
It’s been a mess of a campaign for the Netherlands, and with the best they can hope for now being to scrape into third place in Group A and into the lottery of the playoffs, everything is on the line in Kazakhstan.
With Turkey facing a trip to the Czech Republic there is still hope for the Dutch ahead of a final game meeting with the Czechs, and so surely, surely they won’t slip up here.
Netherlands -1 to win 1.76
9 Wales Will Party, It’s Just Not Sure When
In the press conference following the goalless draw with Israel last month, Wales boss Chris Coleman apologising for delaying his nation’s party, but insisted it will still happen.
When you’ve waited 57 years to qualify for a major tournament you can afford to wait a few more weeks, and with Andorra coming to the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday night there will be a party atmosphere in the Welsh capital which accompanies them, but a point in Bosnia on Saturday makes those likely three points somewhat irrelevant.
With Gareth Bale fit and ready, the celebrations can start in Zenica.
Wales to win or draw 1.88
10 Ante Cacic’s Baptism Of Fire
With Niko Kovac having been sacked following the defeat in Norway last month, new Croatia boss Ante Cacic heads into his first game in charge with the significant responsibility of keeping his nation in the hunt for automatic qualification from Group H.
Rivals Italy and Norway are likely to win to stay as Nos. 1 and 2, but a Croatia win at home to Bulgaria would put the heat on the Norwegians ahead of their final day trip to Rome where they might need a result.
A veteran manager of several teams in Croatia, it’s time for Cacic to embrace national hero status.
Croatia -1 to win 1.85
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