Nations League – Lagerback to lead Norwegian renaissance

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DEBUTANT WLB contributor Tom Love (@TomLove_18) shares his betting thoughts on Sunday's Nations League action.

Ukraine v Slovakia | Sunday 9th September 2018, 14:00 | Sky Sports

Since Ukrainian legend Andriy Shevchenko took the full-time gig as national team boss, he’s overseen relative success.

Ukraine did fail to qualify for the World Cup but they were pitted in a pretty difficult group, and Shevchenko only came into senior management in 2016,

Now he seems to have cut his teeth in the field, results are proving positive. Under the former striker, Ukraine have won over half of their games and they came from behind to beat Czech Republic in Prague on Thursday. Impressive.

Slovakia beat Denmark’s futsal team 3-0 in a competitive game on Wednesday night. That wasn’t something I would ever expect to read or write, but it happened.

They’ll be coming up against a proper football team in Lviv and it’s going to be a much sterner test. The Slovaks do have some notable names in Marek Hamsik, Adam Nemec and Martin Skrtel and do tend to make games fairly competitive.

They’re away from home here though against a side that is in good form. With all that in mind, I’m going to plump for the 5/2 with SkyBet on Ukraine to win by exactly one goal.

Slovakia’s last four defeats have all come by a single-goal margin, including one against Ukraine in a friendly. Three of Ukraine’s last four wins have come by the odd goal and I’m not expecting a rout here, but I do expect home advantage to prevail.

Bulgaria v Norway | Sunday 9th September 2018, 17:00 | Sky Sports

Under the tutelage of the highly-experienced Lars Lagerback, Norwegian football has had a much needed shot in the arm.

Lagerback is highly regarded in Scandinavia and well respected on the international scene. England fans will remember him from Euro 2016 as the joint-coach of the Iceland team that dumped out the Three Lions in Nice.

One thing you get with the 70-year-old is a team set up with structure and discipline, built on a solid defensive base, and that’s proved in results since his return in February 2017. Norway have a W8-D2-L4 record under him and I’d want to get them onside for their trip to Sofia.

There’s talent among the ranks for the Lions. Fulham’s Stefan Johansen, Southampton’s Mohamed Elyounoussi and Bournemouth’s Joshua King are notable Premier League inclusions that all add a good degree of attacking flair to a relatively rigid side.

Bulgaria, on the other hand, don’t really have players of the same calibre. Most of their roster is made up of home-based personnel who aren’t used to the big stage. The hosts do have a young player who is catching the eye, however.

Bozhidar Kraev joined Midtjylland from Levski Sofia in 2017 and he looks like another canny signing for the Danish club who have a reputation for excellent recruitment. At only 21, Kraev bagged a brace to help his national side beat Slovenia in their Nations League opener and he’s a player Norway will have to keep tabs on.

All together I’m happy to invest my faith in Norway coming back with something here and the angle I like is for the visitors to avoid defeat alongside a game featuring fewer than four goals.

This selection is best prices at 10/11 using Bet365’s BetBuilder feature.

Georgia v Latvia | Sunday 9th September 2018, 17:00 | Sky Sports

Georgia look like they could be one of the teams to beat in Group D of the Nations League.

Given the format of the competition, teams like Georgia have a stronger chance of making the European Championships than before and I think they’ll have a ‘get the job done’ mentality in their first home fixture with Latvia.

Slovakian Vladimír Weiss (the father of the ex-Rangers and Bolton winger) is in charge of Georgia, and in his time there he’s being focused on strong defensive organisation and clean sheets. He oversaw an impressive 2-0 win in Astana to beat Kazakhstan in their opening fixture, a place which is usually difficult to go to.

Interestingly, in this Georgia favoured XI, they have two players who play for Gent in Belgium and two that play for San Jose Earthquakes in America. Bizarre? Maybe. However, having players that you are used to playing with, week in, week out, can only help when it comes to the international game.

Latvia are a side that have failed to seriously attempt to even challenge a European Championship qualifying group in the past and it’s easy to see why. Their squad boasts a heavy contingent of natively based players with a few plying their trade in the lesser European leagues – the most notable being Sion.

Ex-Hibs and Dundee United favourite Mixu Paatelainen is the gaffer for the Baltic nation but he really has next to nothing to work with. They will try their best to hold out for a point but Georgia should have enough to break through.

The hosts are around the 4/7 mark to win which doesn’t look a bad price, but we can boost that to even money by chucking in Under 3.5 Goals. This bet would’ve landed in four of their last five wins and they’ve been against similar sides to Latvia in Cyprus, Malta, Estonia and Kazakhstan.

Best Bets

Ukraine v Slovakia – Ukraine to win by exactly 1 goal (5/2 SkyBet)

Bulgaria v Norway – Norway double chance and Under 3.5 Goals (10/11 Bet365)

Georgia v Latvia – Georgia to win and Under 3.5 Goals (1/1 Betway)

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A bit like Charlie from Charlie's Angles, the ubiquitous WLB Admin guys are the all-seeing eyes of the site, making sure the web monkeys keep the site running.

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