IT’S crunch time for another Scotland campaign and almost inevitably it involves a high-stakes game with familiar foes Israel.
Hampden clashes with the Israelis were pivotal to ending the Tartan Army’s 23-year wait to reach a major finals.
Now a play-off slot for the World Cup is tantalisingly within reach if the Scots can defeat Israel in Mount Florida this evening.
It’s the sixth meeting of these nations since 2018 and Scotland’s only victory inside 90 minutes came when James Forrrest’s hat-trick sealed that 3-2 Nations League win.
Three of the last four have ended in draws, including a 1-1 stalemate in Israel earlier in this group. Another draw in this one pays 12/5 with McBookie but I’ve got a feeling Clarke’s side will edge this.
They claimed a huge 1-0 victory in Austria last time out to put themselves in pole position for second place in Group F behind Denmark. And with a packed Hampden roaring them on the Scots look good value for a massive victory at a best 19/20 with SportNation.
In all those recent encounters neither Scotland nor Israel have won by more than a one-goal margin and it should be another tight match.
A one-goal winning margin for either side pays 5/4 with McBookie and that looks well worth a punt.
Israel have injury problems at the back but possess a threat up front with the likes of Eran Zahavi and Manor Solomon.
Six yellow cards were flashed in that play-off semi at Hampden and tackles could fly in again tonight with so much at stake.
I couldn’t find any markets for total cards but the bookies did have prices on players falling foul of the referee.
Celtic’s Nir Bitton often makes senseless challenges so the Israeli looks overpriced at 9/2 with Bet365 to pick up a card.
Lyndon Dykes has scored the winner for Scotland in their last two qualifiers and the QPR hitman is also on the penalties.
That makes him the best bet for a Scotland goal and Dykes is 11/5 with Bet365 for anytime scorer.
Austria will be praying for a Hampden stalemate after falling four points behind the Scots and three adrift of Israel.
Anything other than a win today in the Faroe Islands would end their hopes but I fancy an Austrian win with over 2.5 goals which pays 17/20 at McBookie.
Leaders Denmark travel to rock-bottom Moldova and I’m backing the Danes to win both halves (5/6, McBookie).
- Austria and Danes to win with over 2.5 goals (172/100, McBookie).
England hit their first bump on the road to Qatar 2022 last time out in Poland but should hit top gear again in Andorra tonight.
Gareth Southgate’s men looked set for a sixth successive win in Group I until the Poles bagged an injury-time leveller in Warsaw last month.
Having backed BTTS that night, I was leaping around the living room when Damian Szymanski nodded home but conceding that late goal probably won’t come back to haunt the Three Lions.
England are four points clear of Albania at the top of the group and that lead will probably be stretched after the latest round of games.
They are just 1/40 with McBookie for a win in Andorra and it’s hard to find value bets for this one.
Even the scorer markets are tough as it’s difficult to tell what kind of side Southgate will field.
Next week’s Wembley clash with Hungary is a much bigger game so the England boss could give some big hitters a rest.
But I’m going to have a punt on Phil Foden for anytime scorer at 10/11 with Betway as he has been in superb form for Manchester City. The odds on an assist for the youngster are better at 7/5 with McBookie.
Andorra proved a tough nut to crack in London and they kept the score at just 1-0 before the English added three more goals in the final 18 minutes.
That was good news for me as I had backed most goals to come after the break and the same bet pays 19/20 at Betway here.
There’s a massive game for Northern Ireland tonight in Group C as they travel to Switzerland.
The Irish currently sit third, three points adrift of the Swiss, so defeat in Geneva would pretty much end their World Cup dream.
It finished 0-0 when these sides faced off in Belfast and Northern Ireland have drawn blanks in three of their four qualifiers.
That makes a Switzerland win to nil the best option for this one and it pays 9/10 with BetVictor.
Breel Embolo impressed for the Swiss at Euro 2020 and is a tempting 2/1 with Bet365 for anytime scorer.
The Republic of Ireland only have pride to play for in Azerbaijan after a dismal start in Group A.
Stephen Kenny’s side have collected just two points so far and needed a late Shane Duffy goal to salvage a 1-1 Dublin draw when these sides last met.
There has been a one-goal winning margin in three of Azerbaijan’s five qualifiers and that bet pays 6/5 with McBookie here.
Elsewhere, I’m going to double a Bulgaria win in Lithuania with a Hungary victory at home to Albania, which pays 32/10 with SportNation.
- Foden assist (7/5, McBookie)
- Swiss win to nil (9/10, BetVictor)
- One-goal margin in Azerbaijan (6/5, McBookie)
- Hungary and Bulgaria (32/10, Sport Nation)
McBookie Bet Builder
- Combining BTTS no in Andorra with over 6.5 corners and over 2.5 cards pays 98/100
Scottish Challenge Cup Tips
IT’S all about the main course at Hampden today but Scottish football fans can dine out on some tasty starters in the Challenge Cup.
There are four third-round clashes and they all pit a favourite into action against a rival from a lower league.
Raith Rovers are just 4/11 at McBookie to see off League One strugglers East Fife but you can find value by going for goals.
The Fifers have conceded 12 times across their last four matches so doubling a Rovers win with over 2.5 strikes looks decent at 20/21 with McBookie. The same price is also available on John McGlynn’s men scoring in each half.
The best prospect of a shock comes when Morton visit League One Montrose. Both teams have drawn their last two games so the stalemate appeals here at 11/5 with McBookie.
Cove have hit form in League One and should grab a few goals against bottom-tier Albion Rovers. Backing Paul Hartley’s men to win both halves pays 13/8.
Elgin host Championship leaders Inverness and I fancy Caley Thistle to win to nil, which pays a decent 6/5 with McBookie.