Nations League – Dodgy defences should ensure goals galore in Chorzow

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INTERNATIONAL football obsessive Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his best bets from Sunday’s Nations League action.

Poland v Italy | Sunday 14th October 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports

Poland and Portugal provided us with a comfortable Both Teams To Score winner on Thursday night and there’s no reason not to go back in on the same bet when the Poles return to Nations League action against Italy in Chorzow on Sunday evening.

Home head coach Jerzy Brzeczek is under increasing pressure having overseen three winless matches against Italy, Ireland and Portugal, after taken charge following the White Eagles’ awful efforts at the World Cup. The current boss has made a couple of odd selection calls and performances have been largely poor.

Poland were beaten 3-2 when welcoming a Portuguese side without Cristiano Ronaldo here last week. But arguably most alarming for home supporters was the fact Brzeczek’s boys were out-shot 19-8 in that encounter, whilst also losing the Expected Goals count 0.43 – 2.31.

Brzeczek partnered century-capped skipper Robert Lewandowski with Genoa’s goalscoring sensation Krzysztof Piatek, while fielding Piotr Zielinski in the hole of a 4-3-1-2, so it’s not like the talent is lacking in the camp. With Arkadiusz Milik an unused sub, the hosts have enough attacking ability to trouble Italy.

Indeed, the White Eagles haven’t failed to score at home in competitive action since 2009. However, Poland’s defensive frailties have led to the home side conceding in 11 of their last 14 matches, whilst their only three triumphs in their most recent 12 tussles came against Lithuania, Japan and Korea.

Despite that dreadful run of results, it’s a touch surprising to see Italy chalked up as favourites. The Azzurri still appear to be reeling after missing the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, having won just once (against Saudi Arabia) in 10 encounters over the past 12 months.

Roberto Mancini’s men played out an emotional friendly draw against Ukraine on Wednesday evening, which honoured the victims of the bridge collapse in Genoa. The match was paused in the 43rd minute as players, staff and supporters applauded in memory of those who died.

Italy enjoyed 66% of the ball and fired in 20 efforts at goal but their lack of fluency in the final-third is a concern. The visitors have scored just seven goals in their past 10 games (two of which arrived against Saudi Arabia). Even so, they should be capable of creating clear-cut opportunities against this Polish backline.

The Azzurri will certainly need their forwards to fire as, like Poland, Mancini’s men are struggling defensively. In fact, the guests have failed to silence their opposition in any of their last eight, their worst run since 1959.

With that in mind, Both Teams To Score is the obvious selection again at even-money with William Hill. This is bet has proven profitable in six of Italy’s most recent seven showdowns, as well as six of Poland’s past nine contests, including four of five at home.

Russia v Turkey | Sunday 14th October 2018, 17:00 | Sky Sports

Sweden goalkeeper Robin Olsen pulled off a world-class save as his side held Russia to a 0-0 draw in Kaliningrad on Thursday. The World Cup hosts failed to convert their dominance on the ball into on-target attempts before the stunning late intervention that kept Daler Kuzyaev out.

The Swedes came for a point and will be pleased to have departed Kaliningrad with a share of the spoils. Retrospectively, our Both Teams To Score selection could and should have been amended to a more a low-scoring angle of attack, but I’m keen to board the BTTS bus again when Turkey turn up in Sochi.

The Crescent Stars are much more offensively-minded outfit under Mircea Lucescu tutelage and should pose the hosts plenty of problems with the likes of set-piece specialist Hakan Calhanoglu, Roma starlet Cengiz Under and Everton hitman Cenk Tosun leading the attack.

Sure, Turkey were held to a goalless stalemate against Bosnia in a friendly fixture last week but I’m happy to gloss over that, safe in the knowledge the visitors had scored in each of their previous eight, and 17 of their previous 20 outings, with Both Teams To Score (1/1 William Hill) copping in seven of their previous eight.

Defensively, the Crescent Stars remain a concern and that should encourage Russia. Lucescu’s troops have recorded only two shutouts in 12, leaking at least twice in eight of those encounters – adding further evidence to suggest goals will be on the menu in Sochi.

As mentioned last week, Russia had scored in scored in all bar one of their eight previous matches before facing Sweden and Stanislav Cherchesov’s side had kept their sheets clean once in 15 – against Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the World Cup. The Sbornaya had silenced only four of 19 previous visitors.

Both Teams To Score has landed in seven of Russia’s last 11 games and so I’ll gladly take the BTTS option again at evens.

Best Bets

Poland v Italy – Both Teams To Score (1/1 William Hill)

Russia v Turkey – Both Teams To Score (1/1 William Hill)

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After starting his career in newspaper journalism, Mark soon found his way into the online betting world, forging a career in content, social media and marketing production. With a huge passion for stats, the Football League and European football, Mark’s other interests include playing rugby, following his beloved QPR and travel.

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