Nations League: Minnows set for feisty Friday fixture

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THERE'S more Nations League action to come on Friday night and Tom Love (@TomLove_18) is in the hot-seat to shares his thoughts on the best angles of attack.

Slovakia v Ukraine | Friday 16th November 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports

Ukraine have secured top spot in this group after winning each of their three Nations League games thus far. It’s been a decent start to management for native hero Andriy Shevchenko and despite having little to play for here, I still think they can trouble a Slovakia side that are bottom of the three-pronged standings.

The Slovaks have to go for it, and the 13/10 on the home side reflects that. Going off as comfortable favourites given the respective form of the two teams may raise eyebrows but it’s priced up on the group dynamics more than anything, and I think there’s scope to exploit this market.

I’d expect Pavel Hapal’s side to score though. They do have attacking threats and in Marek Hamsik, Adam Nemec and Vladimir Weiss, they can turn it on when they want to. What’s more, opponents Ukraine have conceded in their last three away games in all competitions.

The Yellow-Blue have a strong counter-attacking threat though; Andriy Yarmolenko and Yehven Konoplyanka have always been a potential danger on the flanks. Unfortunately the former is out for a long period of time but Manchester City utility man Oleksander Zinchenko is an able deputy. Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Marlos is also available after the Brazilian-born player received Ukrainian citizenship in 2017.

Both Teams To Score has been chalked up at 23/20 (Boylesports) and that’s an appealing quote. Both sides have scored in five of their last six respective games and with Slovakia’s need to win and Ukraine’s threat on the break it’s something that’s highly feasible.

Gibraltar v Armenia | Friday 16th November 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports

To the neutral, this game lacks any sort of meaning, but for the two nations involved this is a massive match.

During the last international break I went to the pub to find Armenia v Macedonia on the box. It was one of the most bizarre and entertaining games I’ve seen for a long time. Both sides were kicking lumps out of each other from the get-go and it continually got more and more violent as the game went on.

In the end there were nine yellow cards and one red with Armenia eventually running out comfortable 4-0 victors.

The rationale behind such a feisty encounter interested me, and I think this newly-formatted competition is a big part of it. The Nations League was designed to give greater hope to smaller nations aiming to reach Euro 2020, hence the groups hosting sides of a similar level.

Therefore the ‘minnows’ who have often been accustomed to being the whipping boys of qualifying groups in years gone by, now have something to genuinely compete for. Stakes are much higher due to the potential promotion to Group C and a more favourable chance of progression.

Curiosity led my to delve into the disciplinary records in the lower groups: Group D1 has seen 30 yellows and three reds so far, D2 has seen 32 yellows and one red, whilst D3 has seen 35 yellows and one red. Finally, Group D4, which involves these two teams, has seen a massive 41 yellows and two reds.

Data averages show us that Gibraltar are picking up 27.5 Booking Points per-game and Armenia are collecting 30 Booking Points on average. Naturally we’d be expecting an ill-disciplined affair, but that train of thought can be bolstered when taking a peek at the group dynamics.

After four fixtures both sides are locked on six points in third and second respectively, and so there’s everything to play for. Cards tend to be handed out more frequently in games where there’s a lot on the line and that coupled with the aforementioned disciplinary statistics takes me to my selected bet – it’s one of my favourites this season.

SkyBet have priced up 20+ Booking Points for each team at an extremely attractive 11/4 quote. That’s too big and I’m don’t be surprised to see it go off at shorter than 2/1 come kick-off.

Best Bets

Slovakia v Ukraine – Both Teams To Score (23/20 Boylesports)

Gibraltar v Armenia – 20+ booking points each team (11/4 SkyBet)

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