THE bloated qualifying process for Euro 2016 gets back underway this week with the first of two rounds of fixtures taking place from Thursday through to Saturday. Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) talks us through the best bets from Thursday’s card…
Lithuania v Estonia | 19.45 | Sky Sports Interactive
This summer’s World Cup proved there is still magic in the international game although we’re unlikely to see any fairytales when England take on San Marino at Wembley. Instead, make the Baltic derby between Lithuania and Estonia your first port of call for a bet in Group E.
The hosts have been chalked up as 5/4 favourites with Bet365 to collect maximum points and I’ve plenty of faith in Igoris Pankratjevas’ side to produce the goods when it matters most at the LFF Stadium in Vilnius.
Lithuania have only lost three of their past 10 fixtures, kicked-off their campaign with a routine win at San Marino and also possess a decent record in their own backyard. You have to go all the way back to September 2006 for the last time the national side were beaten in a competitive game when scoring at home!
They should have no problem netting when Estonia turn up in town. The visitors have lost 11 of their last 16 away from home, failing to score in nine of those. But crucially, the Blueshirts have kept just two competitive clean sheets on the road since 2005 – both game at no-hopers Andorra in a 23-game spell.
Throw in the fact that Lithuania have won five of an unbeaten previous six meetings against their near neighbours and a home win looks good value with Bet365.
Sweden v Russia | 19.45 | Sky Sports Interactive
Sweden are always an attractive bet in the Both Teams To Score column when international football takes over our screens. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may hog the headlines but the Blue-Yellow have an outstanding record for scoring in the big games.
The hosts opened their campaign with a subdued 1-1 draw against Austria. But that result means the Swedes have now netted in 28 of their last 31 competitive outings with 16/24 matches that matter seeing both teams get on the scoresheet since 2010!
Erik Hamren’s men have leaked eight goals in successive competitive defeats in Stockholm and their three outings in the capital have produced a whopping 15 goals. It’s a great recipe for a Both Teams To Score bet and not even the grumpy Russians can sour our enthusiasm for the 21/20 on offer from William Hill.
The visitors started with a 4-0 walloping of Liechtenstein in Moscow but have struggled to hit those heights when playing outside of the country. Fabio Capello’s men leaked goals at Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan on route to securing World Cup qualification and have now kept just one clean sheet in their previous seven competitive fixtures outside their homeland. Both Teams To Score is 21/20 with William Hill.
Lithuania v Estonia – Lithuania to win (5/4 Bet365)
Sweden v Russia – Both Teams To Score (21/20 William Hill)