MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) shares his verdict on Easter Monday’s international action.
Ukraine v Wales | Easter Monday 19.00 | BBC 2 Wales
We’ve missed the value here, sadly.
Just 72 hours ago, Ukraine were available to back at 17/20 to see off Wales in Kiev. Now the Yellow-Blue are a best price of 8/13 (Coral).
I’m not going to recommend a home win now but there are still ways to get the hosts onside at a reasonable price for Easter Monday’s international friendly, specifically by opposing goals.
Ukraine aren’t a team that’s full of goals. In Thursday evening’s contest against Cyprus only one was required by Mykhaylo Fomenko’s men and with sparkling Yehvan Konoplyanka out injured, the hosts do look a little short on attacking power.
Still, classy Andriy Yarmolenko is available and with a W13-D4-L2 record in the Olympic Stadium to defend (and 13 clean sheets to their name), it doesn’t require too much rocket science to get Ukraine onside here.
The Yellow-Blue have W8-D4-L0 in friendlies since August 2012 with only two fixtures breaking the Over 2.5 Goals barrier and only three matches featuring goals for both sides.
Wales were very flat in their home draw against Northern Ireland on Thursday and Chris Coleman’s squad are missing Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, James Collins, Andy King, Hal Robson-Kanu and David Edwards.
The Dragons scored just 11 goals during qualification and the absent Bale contributed seven of those. Throw in Robson-Kanu and Ramsey’s three goals and only one member of the travelling party notched during qualification, David Cotterill.
Walsall’s Tom Bradshaw may make his debut but Wales’ first-choice striker in the squad is Sam Vokes and the Burnley target-man has managed just six international goals in nearly 40 caps. The Dragons may struggle for goals, here.
Northern Ireland v Slovenia | Easter Monday 19.45 | BBC 2
Northern Ireland have the opportunity to extend their unbeaten streak to 10 (W4-D5-L0) on Easter Monday with a very winnable friendly against Slovenia.
Michael O’Neill’s men managed just two victories in his first 21 outings in charge but the Green and White Army have since found their groove. Avoiding defeat here would equal the achievements of the side that qualified for the 1986 World Cup and I reckon the hosts look a good thing to pick up a victory.
There’s a feel-good factor around Belfast having made a first major tournament finals in 30 years and Norn Iron’s solid foundations should stand them in good stead. On Thursday night, O’Neill selected a three-man backline and Premier League centre-halves Gareth McAuley, Jonny Evans and Craig Cathcart are all capable of keeping clean sheets.
Paddy McNair proved his versatility in an unfamiliar midfield role and the strong work ethic displayed during qualification was on show again in Cardiff with Northern Ireland a matters of minutes away from a first away friendly victory in for a decade.
Slovenia failed to reach Euro 2016 after falling at the play-off hurdle and Srecko Katanec’s side tend to struggle on the road. Only Estonia (1-0) and San Marino (2-0) have seen off in their last 11 away trips as they failed to even score on seven occasions.
Kevin Kampl’s arguably the Slovenian star these days and he’s out for the season with a broken leg so it’s hard to imagine the visitors causing Norn Iron too many defensive headaches.
Again, I’m not too keen on the 7/5 (Betfred) offered so instead the correct score route should give us a decent price to cheer on for small stakes. The 1-0 home success is 5/1 (William Hill) and the 2-0 is a 9/1 play with BetVictor. I’ll back both.
Ukraine v Wales – Ukraine to win 1-0 (22/5 Marathon)
Ukraine v Wales – Ukraine to win 2-0 (11/2 William Hill)
Northern Ireland v Slovenia – Northern Ireland to win 1-0 (5/1 William Hill)
Northern Ireland v Slovenia – Northern Ireland to win 2-0 (9/1 BetVictor)
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