The controversial UEFA Nations League is back. UEFA’s attempt to make international breaks vaguely interesting has worked so far.
The best players and best teams are trying more than they would in friendlies and that’s good to see. Some heavyweights face-off over the next few days. Below are a few thoughts and tips on the best matches…
BELGIUM vs SWITZERLAND
Switzerland’s negotiation of the FIFA ranking system has earned them a favourable group.
Facing Belgium is far from ideal, but Switzerland already have three points and six goals on the board after thrashing Iceland in the last international break.
Their star man, Xherdan Shaqiri, is well rested too, having played a supporting role for Liverpool during the early stages of the season.
Belgium are 4/1 to win the whole competition. Kevin De Bruyne is still out with injury, but Roberto Martinez has plenty of talent at his disposal.
Eden Hazard is playing as well as anyone in the world right now and could blow the Swiss away. Goals are to be expected with Belgium involved. The hosts should win this one comfortably, but it’ll be entertaining.
TIP: Over 2.5 goals @ 8/13
PREDICTED SCORE: Belgium 3-1 Switzerland (Priced at 10/1 with 888sport)
Croatia vs ENGLAND
This rematch of the World Cup semi-final is pivotal. Both teams lost to Spain in the opening round of matches.
England, however, gave a better account of themselves, and were perhaps unfortunate to lose 2-1, while Croatia were thrashed 6-0.
Gareth Southgate has an inexperienced squad at his disposal for this international break and the England boss may use this match to take a look at some different players.
The Three Lions were outplayed by the Croatians in Russia, but England are a team in the ascendency and Croatia are, potentially, on the decline.
England to avoid defeat is a decent price given the relative performances of the two teams since the World Cup.
TIP: England to win or draw @ 13/25
PREDICTED SCORE: Croatia 1-2 England (Priced at 10/1 with 888sport)
Netherlands vs GERMANY
The Netherlands are in a period of transition. Having missed the World Cup, they were handed a group with Germany and France.
Defeat to the world champions followed, but their chances are better against a Germany side that struggled horribly in Russia.
Germany played out a 0-0 draw with France to start their Nations League campaign. Jogi Loew’s side are the favourites in this one and have the midfield – led by Toni Kroos – to control the match.
Loew has options aplenty in the front line. Germany should have the firepower to win this one.
The visitors have the better players and that should show here. There are some good players in the Netherlands squad, but they’ve got a long way to go to compete with the best.
TIP: Germany to win @ 11/10
PREDICTED SCORE: Netherlands 0-2 Germany (Priced at 21/2 with 888sport)
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND vs DENMARK
Ireland had a terrible start to their Nations League campaign with a 4-1 defeat to Wales.
Martin O’Neill’s side look the weakest team in their group and are in desperate need of a result against Denmark this weekend.
Crucially for Ireland, though, Christian Eriksen is set to sit out for the Danes.
Eriksen would have been by far the best player on the pitch and is the heart of this Denmark side.
The visitors will still be hard to beat but can be stopped if O’Neill’s side are disciplined defensively.
Ireland will look to keep this one tight. Denmark will not be gutted with a draw, having taken three points against Wales in their first match. Under 2.5 is a short price, but it is the best way to go.
TIP: Under 2.5 goals @ 1/2
PREDICTED SCORE: Ireland 1-1 Denmark (Priced at 5/1 with 888sport)
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*