The international fixtures are in full swing and Saturday serves up another tasty selection of World Cup qualifiers across Europe.
Given that it’s getting towards the business end of the group phase, the nations with a chance of qualifying will be desperate to register another three points. We’ve picked three that we think will do just that.
With a £10 treble returning just under £65, it has to be worth a punt.
Finland v Iceland (5PM)
The darlings of Euro 2016 are well on track to seal a play-off spot for a place in Russia, but Heimir Hallgrimsson’s could yet clinch automatic promotion by beating Croatia to the Group I crown. Their next test is a tricky trip to Tampere, but they have more than enough quality to come through it unscathed.
Iceland are still considered to be playing beyond expectations, but their quality over the past four years or so cannot be ignored. Gylfi Sigurdsson may be the only genuine superstar, but there is plenty of quality and experience in this squad. Tellingly, though, they additionally know how to play like a team.
Conversely, Finland are already eliminated after picking up just one point. While there is plenty of international experience, it is a pretty poor home side. Frankly, those vulnerabilities are likely to be punished by Iceland, just as they were in the 3-2 reverse clash.
With Turkey and Ukraine in there too, this is arguably the most competitive group of the lot. Given that the visitors have already picked up great results against those difficult opponents, we fully expect them to prevail here.
Georgia v Republic of Ireland (5PM)
Martin O’Neill’s Boys in Green are well on track to grab a play-off spot in a difficult Group D, but they’ll still be setting the sights on automatic promotion. They can take another huge step towards Russia with a win in Tbilisi.
Georgia isn’t the easiest of places to visit, and the visitors know that they’ll need to put I na strong performance to grab all three points. Still, Jonathan Walters and Shane Long are more than capable of nicking a goal for the visitors while the defensive experience of John O’Shea and co. could be key.
The hosts have a reputation of putting up defensive resistance, but their squad lacks star quality. Three of their six goals have come against the minnows of Moldova and, in truth, it’s hard to see them scoring more than once in this game.
If Ireland can break through that barrier, a win should be on the cards. A repeat of the 1-0 win in Dublin last October wouldn’t surprise anyone.
Spain v Italy. (7:45PM)
Having each only dropped points in the 1-1 reverse draw, Group G giants Spain and Italy are locked on 16 points heading into what is likely to be the group decider at the Bernabeu. However, it’s the 2010 champions that should have the edge over the 2006 winners.
Julen Lopetegui has raised a few eyebrows with the recall of David Villa, but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that this squad is bursting with talent. Marco Asensio is the latest superstar to emerge while the experience of David Silva, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and co. should help the likes of Suso and the highly talented Saul Niguez.
While this is a good Italy side that should be ready to have a real good go of things next summer, there’s no doubt that Gian Piero Ventura’s men are still in transition. There is certainly plenty of quality in the team, but it’s hard to win a competitive game in Spain without being at your very best.
In truth, both sides are likely to be stronger come the World Cup and we’d be shocked if the team that finishes second fails to win their play-off. It’s certainly a difficult game but, at those odds, it’s hard to turn our noses up at Spain for the victory.