Serbia v Lithuania | Tuesday 20th November 2018, 19:40 | Sky Sports
We enter the find round of fixtures in the maiden Nations League group stages and one thing is for certain for Serbia; a win means they win the group. They sit top ahead of Romania by two points, with both being unbeaten in the campaign. Serbia face more of a routine game at home to Lithuania, who are already out and have lost every game, compared to Romania, who have to travel to Montenegro.
Motivation won’t necessarily be too high for the Lithuanians, especially if their match at Romania a few days ago is anything to go by. They went into that already knowing they will be relegated, and they were a clear second best in a 3-0 defeat.
Head coach Edgaras Jankauskas may decide to freshen up his team a little and almost treat this as like a friendly game. On the other hand, they can approach this without any real pressure or expectation. That is all firmly on hosts Serbia.
Serbia edged rivals Montenegro 2-1 at the weekend and many will anticipate them having a much easier contest on Tuesday night. However, it is worth noting in the away meeting that Serbia only earned a 1-0 win, and that came via a penalty.
Penalties have been in the spotlight for the Serbians on late, with Aleksandar Mitrovic chipping over his attempted ‘panenka’ at the weekend to give the scoreline more comfort. It is fair to say he probably won’t be taking the next one!
Penalties have been common in Serbia’s matches of late. In their last five matches in a row there has been a penalty. Four for them, whilst the opposition has collectively earned one.
It can’t be a coincidence that this has happened. They seem to have developed the art of winning spot-kicks rather well. This is likely to be Serbia attack versus Lithuania defence for long spells. There could be a decent shout for another penalty awarded here.
Therefore, we’ll have a little play at 12/5 (Bet Stars) for Penalty In Match ‘Yes’.
Something else we cannot ignore is the Mitrovic effect on this side. Whilst he missed a penalty at the weekend, he did still score earlier on. He has five goals in the Nations League so far, making him the top scorer in the entire competition.
With Lithuania coming to town, a side that has conceded 12 goals in their five group games, the Fulham striker will fancy himself to bag again. He’ll feel as though he’ll still have something of a point to prove after his penalty miss on Saturday, for which he accepts he made a big error. He is a good bet to score here, and netting first is specifically available at 11/5 (Bet365).
Lithuania do not travel well, winning only one official away match since doing so in 2004 in San Marino. Serbia are certainly superior and really should be winning this at an absolute canter.
Serbia have already scored twice in both home matches so far, those coming against Romania and Montenegro, who are certainly of a higher standard than Lithuania.
Sweden v Russia | Tuesday 20th November 2018, 19:45 | Sky Sports
First impressions of hearing that Sweden will be meeting Russia on Tuesday night is that this should be another tight tussle between two well-organised outfits.
It is very much advantage Russia in the Nations League going into this final group contest. They lead Sweden by three points, meaning that they only need a draw to earn promotion. Turkey are already relegated and will finish bottom, so it is very much winner takes all in this match. Sweden know a win who see them leapfrog Russia into first, meaning it’d be promotion for them.
Sweden got the job done in Turkey on Saturday night in rather typical fashion for them. 1-0 is a common score for them and skipper Andreas Granqvist’s penalty would separate the two sides. It wasn’t pretty, but they are a side that are more than capable of grinding out a clean sheet.
However, they know only a win will do on Tuesday, so they will certainly have to be adventurous. If anything, they’d rather be in Russia’s shoes, as they’d be almost certainties to take a point from this at least.
Russia however have a little bit of a conundrum for this clash. It is a case of if they need to stick or twist. A draw is fine for them, but playing a defensive game for 90 minutes away from home is never easy, especially against decent opposition. It could be that they look to play on the break.
Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov oversaw a 3-0 loss to Germany in a friendly match on Thursday. They were defensive in that game and never really landed a glove on the Germans, who entered that clash in rather indifferent form. It might have been something of a trial run for this clash with Sweden, sitting back and hoping for chances on the break. Time will tell on that front.
The reality of the situation is that Russia do not need to win this game. They have the insurance of a draw in the back of their minds. There is no need for them to go all-out for a goal or anything early on, purely as that’d leave them exposed defensively potentially.
Even later on if the scores remain level, they don’t have to commit too many forward on the break, again at the risk of being light at the back. Sweden don’t tend to score many goals, but they concede few, and the same can be said of Russia. There are many similarities between these two.
Goals are not expected to be in big supply here, especially with so much at stake. For the reasons we’ve touched upon above, we’re going to back the 0-0 Half Time Score at 17/10 (Bet Stars). Sweden have only scored more than once in one of their past seven games. They won’t score many here, especially with Russia motivated to be tough to break down.
We’ve already touched upon about how these two, especially Sweden, don’t always witness many goals in their matches. There have been a few exceptions for Russia of late, and even more so at the World Cup, which of course they hosted. However, there is a market which statistically is one we should be focusing on here.
Both Teams To Score is not something that quickly jumps out here, and so it shouldn’t. However, we’re instead going down the Both Teams To Score ‘No’ route, which is priced at 4/5 (BoyleSports).
This is because matches involving Sweden has regularly beaten this line for many, many months now. In fact, since the start of qualification for the last World Cup began, 19 of their official games haven’t seen both teams netting. The same can be said in Russia’s three most recent matches. Let us not forget, the first meeting between Sweden and Russia in this group ended 0-0.
Serbia v Lithuania – Penalty In Match ‘Yes’ (12/5 Bet Stars)
Serbia v Lithuania – Aleksandar Mitrovic to score first (11/5 Bet365)
Sweden v Russia – 0-0 half-time correct score (17/10 Bet Stars)
Sweden v Russia – Both Teams To Score ‘No’ (4/5 BoyleSports)