BEN LEVENE (@BenLevene96) shares his thoughts on the crucial World Cup qualifiers from Friday.
Spain v Albania | v Friday 6th October 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Spain are probably the in-form side in international football at the minute.
I don’t have access to betting algorithm’s or anything, but based on what we know at the minute, I’d have them down to win the World Cup, so like most bettors I was in awe at the 10/1 about them during the last break.
Julen Lopetegui has come in and added an element of freshness after things began to go stale under Vincent Del Bosque. We can’t forget that no so long ago some of this Spain side won three consecutive international tournaments between 2008 and 2012, and a Confederations Cup in between.
Lopetegui has found the balance. I watched their friendly against France in March when they won 2-0 and was impressed on that occasion, but it was during the last international break that Spain really caught the eye. They comfortably dispatched of a decent Italian side 3-0 thanks to some jaw-dropping stuff from Isco and then relentlessly beat Liechtenstein 8-0.
We can expect Spain to be relentless again in Friday’s game at home to Albania. Spain have won each of their four home qualifiers this campaign by a margin of three goals or greater and are 22/23 to cover the -3 on the Asian Handicap with Unibet. This sees our stake refunded if Spain win by exactly three goals. Expect that price to shorten in the coming days.
Albania are a decent side and are three qualifiers are unbeaten. They were competitive in games during the last Euros and have only lost to Spain and Italy this term by two-goal margins on each occasion.
However, it is difficult to see how a squad possessing the attacking quality of Isco, Andres Iniesta, Thiago Alcantara, David Silva and Marco Asensio doesn’t score goals.
I guess the one thing worth noting is that Spain are without Alvaro Morata due to injury and with the Diego Costa situation, they are lacking an out-and-out number nine.
Croatia v Finland | Friday 6th October 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Croatia are top of Group I but with four nations still in contention, will have to finish strongly to secure a World Cup spot.
This Croat side are a bit like the Belgians to a lesser extent. They boast such a gifted squad that you sometimes feel they could be achieving that bit more. They are a solid outfit at home, winning three of their last four ‘to nil’.
Despite not being able to qualify, Finland seem to be benefitting from playing without pressure. During the last international break, they ended a run of five consecutive qualifying losses with two wins.
The betting angle I really like here is in terms of goals and will become really clear once you consider both sides’ recent results.
Croatia’s last six qualifiers have seen Under 2.5 Goals, with each of their last four seeing just the single goal. In fact, just one of their eight qualifiers has beaten the 2.5 goals mark. They’ve kept three consecutive clean sheets at home in qualifying as we established earlier.
Six of Finland’s eight qualifiers have seen Under 2.5 Goals, including five of their last six and each of their last two. Including friendlies, 10 of Finland’s last 11 away matches have seen Under 2.5 goals, with each of their last three away qualifiers ending in the same feat.
Everything here points to two or less goals and yet Under 2.5 goals is priced at odds-against across the board, with BetBright offering 11/8.
Whether it’s because of Croatia’s perceived talent, or the fact Finland have little to play for, who knows? The data is quite strong so I’m happy to take the 11/8 offered.