MARK O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) pointed us in the right direction of a number of tasty Thursday winners in the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Can he repeat the feat on Saturday?
Russia v Sweden | Saturday 17.00 | Sky Sports 5
When prices first came out for Euro 2016 qualifying, you’d have been lucky to find Russia at odds-against to win their pool. Now, six games into their qualifying campaign, the 2018 World Cup hosts are hovering around the 50/1 mark to top Group C.
Like many of the European big-hitters, Russia have found the going tough. The National Team have plodded along in third-place, taken just eight points thus far. The 2008 semi-finalists have only won once despite their W2-D2-L2 record – that was a 4-0 battering of Lichtenstein in Moscow in their first outing – crowd trouble saw their away game in Montenegro abandoned after 67 minutes with UEFA handing Saturday’s hosts a 3-0 walkover.
It’s been a pretty lifeless qualifying campaign and it was no great surprise to see Fabio Capello axed as head coach soon after their 1-0 home reverse to Austria. CSKA Moscow manager Leonard Slutski has been handed a rescue mission by the Russian FA but keeping the National Team’s dreams alive may not be quite as so straightforward with the side already trailing second-placed Sweden by four points.
On Saturday the impressive Swedes visit the Luzhniki Stadium with Erik Hamren’s visitors defending an unbeaten W3-D3-L0 record during the current qualification process. We shouldn’t be overly surprised by Sweden’s success; the travellers have reached every European Championship finals since 1996 and head to the Russian capital having lost just twice in their last nine road trips.
The Blue-Yellow have already avoided defeat on trips to table-topping Austria and awkward Montenegro so they’ll be bullish about their prospects. It helps that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back and ready to spearhead the side but I firmly believe they’re a better unit than perhaps the odds are suggesting.
Sure, Russia have claimed 11 wins from their last 14 in Moscow but Moldova escaped with a point recently whilst Austria pocketed all three. Slutski’s team will be under huge pressure to get a win on board but it’s the 11/13 from BetVictor that Sweden avoid defeat with a +0.50 Asian Handicap start, that makes the most appeal.
Spain v Slovakia | Saturday 19.45 | Sky Sports 5
Slovakia were 25/1 shots to top Group C at the start of qualifying but that’s exactly where Jan Kozak’s bang-in-form side are perched after six games. The Slovaks have won 12 of their last 13 outings and that includes a 2-1 victory over Saturday night’s opponents Spain in Zilina back in October.
The visitors have been beaten by more than one goal in just one of their last 13 trips to nations with a higher FIFA ranking and the stubborn Slovaks are well equipped to cause La Roja more problems. Heading back into the Asian Handicap market, we can invest in Slovakia +1.5 at 42/41 with 888 Sport meaning we’ll be paid out should Kozak’s men stay within one goal of their more illustrious hosts.
Spain have suffered six defeats in their last 13 matches, including that loss in Zilina, and although Vicente del Bosque’s side have returned impressive W8-D2-L1 figures from their past 11 games on Spanish soil, only four of those 11 encounters were won by two goals or more.
The 2010 World Cup winners are in a reasonable position with a three-point cushion over third-placed Ukraine but may find the talented Slovakia a tricky obstacle to pass in Oviedo on Saturday night.
Russia v Sweden – Sweden +0.50 Asian Handicap (11/13 BetVictor)
Spain v Slovakia – Slovakia +1.5 Asian Handicap (42/41 888 Sport)
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