MARK Stinchcombe (@markstinchcombe) picks out his best bets for Saturday’s World Cup qualifiers.
Poland v Montenegro | Sunday 8th October 2017, 17:00 | Sky Sports
Last week I spoke about both these sides in their quests for Russia next summer and their results couldn’t have been more opposite. Poland romped to a 5-1 win in Armenia which obviously included a standard goal for the opposition (unfortunately no goal for Mkhitaryan from his two shots) but Montenegro suffered a 1-0 defeat to Denmark in Podgorica.
Unfortunately, there was always an air of inevitably to both their defeat and mine (over 2.25 goals), after star man Steven Jovetic was forced off injured after just 20 minutes.
Poland should win the group from here with being three points clear of Denmark but Montenegro faces a mammoth task needing a win here and Romania to cause an upset to finish 2nd.
Poland is just 3/10 but I don’t think that’s too far wrong given their attacking prowess and Jovetic’s injury. Poland’s star man, on the other hand, Robert Lewandowski is on absolute fire with another hat-trick on Thursday night taking his tally in qualification to 15 goals, with 16 in his last 10 games alone.
With Poland’s matches averaging 3.33 goals per game since 2015 and Montenegro’s 2.81, Poland to win and over 2.5 goals looks a good bet at 1.95. Poland won the reverse fixture 2-1 in March. Even without Jovetic, Poland is more than capable of scoring 3+ or giving the opposition a goal.
Slovakia v Malta| Sunday 8th October 2017, 17:00 | Sky Sports
It’s an exciting end to Group F with three teams in contention for the 2nd spot. Scotland (7/4) seem in pole position, but face an incredibly tough away game in Slovenia against a side who are yet to concede at home. With Slovakia 1/14 to overcome Malta, it’s them who seems likely to take 2nd spot.
They’ll have to shake off their disappointment from Thursday’s night defeat having played most of the game with 10 men only to concede the 89th minute Martin Skrtel own goal. And Malta isn’t quite the cannon fodder the market suggests.
They lost 2-0 away to all of England, Scotland and Slovakia, and having watched the England defeat, it wasn’t a case of hanging on, they were well organised and deserved a respectable loss. This is nothing new either as in their previous qualifying campaign for the Euro’s they lost 1-0 at Italy, 2-0 in Croatia and 2-0 in Norway.
Slovakia isn’t built to break down stubborn sides, and most of their success in reaching Euro 2016 was built on a great counter-attacking game and thus they’ve almost become a victim of their own success with teams giving them more respect.
Having had to play with 10 men for well over an hour on Thursday night, there could be an element of fatigue and I think they’ll look to make sure they get
the three points required with having a both a better goal difference and head-to-head record than Scotland.
The market is anticipating goals but I think we have a good case that it won’t be that many. Slovakia to win and under 3.5 goals is odds against and that looks decent value to back the 1/14 Slovak’s. Indeed, when they met in a friendly in Zilina a few years Slovakia managed just a 1-0 win.