THURSDAY sees the start of six days if Euro 2016 qualifiers that will end on Tuesday with nations knowing if they’re heading to France or the play-offs.
Only four countries have qualified – England, Austria, Iceland and Czech Republic – so there is plenty to play for and some massive matches.
There is none bigger tonight than Scotland v Poland and I’ve posted a separate preview with a mention of Ireland v Germany.
The other game in Group D sees Georgia entertain Gibraltar and they’ll want a good result after beating Scotland in Tbilisi. Georgia aren’t prolific scores but 8-15 with Stan James for them to win by three or more is worth putting on an accumulator.
Group D remaining games: Sunday – Germany v Georgia, Gibraltar v Scotland, Poland v Republic of Ireland.
If Hampden will be rocking it will be the same in Belfast with Northern Ireland needing one win in their last two qualifiers to make their first appearance at a major championship for 30 years.
Michael O’Neill’s men face Greece tonight and then travel to Finland and I reckon they’ll get the job done against a side who have been woeful in qualifying with just three draws and two goals.
Greece are so bad they sit bottom of the group and three points behind the Faroes, The Irish look big at 13-8 with Betfred but one concern is the absence of top scorer and talisman Kyle Lafferty who is banned.
He’s contributed six goals to the campaign – four more than anyone else – so another player will have to rise to the occasion. If he’s given the nod I’d consider Ross County’s Liam Boyce, with 10 goals in eight games in Scotland, or what about 10-1 on Steve Davies to score after he hit a cracker at the weekend in the win over Chelsea.
This won’t be a goalfest but bookies know it and boylesports are a best 11-10 on under 1.5 goals.
Romania are favourites to join the Irish and sit three points clear of third-placed Hungary in second. Finland are still in with a shout of grabbing a play-off spot and sit three points further back.
The Romanians are unbeaten with four wins and four draws and are 8-11 at bet365 to edge out the Finns at home and should do so.
Hungary face the Faroes at home and are 3-10 at Stan James. The islanders have conceded just 12 in their eight games so are unlikely to be thrashed but Hungary -1 at 10-11 with bet365 interests me.
Group F remaining matches: Sunday – Faroes v Romania, Finland v Northern Ireland, Greece v Hungary.
In the five-team Group I Portugal will qualify if they beat second-placed Denmark who will then join Albania in the play-offs with Armenia and Serbia out.
It’s the Danes’ final match and they must win to have a chance of topping the Portuguese on the h2h. Portugal, despite the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, have netted just eight goals in six games but won in Copenhagen and can repeat the feat.
They are 8-11 with the likes of bet365 and Ladbrokes and Ronaldo is 3-1 to score first.
Albania could finish top with wins tonight against Serbia at home and at Armenia on Sunday. The Albania game could be explosive after their match in Belgrade was abandoned after all sorts of crowd trouble and terrorist threats.
Serbia were originally awarded a 3-0 win but it was overturned in Albania’s favour and maybe best bet tonight could be a red card.
Albania are 15-8 to win with Betfred and you have to favour them as Serbia are out but I can’t see the visitors easing off with so much national pride at stake.
Group I remaining matches: Sunday – Armenia v Albania, Serbia v Portugal.