The Nations League has thrown up a number of entertaining fixtures so far and Monday and Tuesday’s games promise plenty more.
While the tournament was initially met with suspicion in some quarters, the competitive nature of the games has made for plenty of drama and the second bunch of fixtures are sure to provide further excitement.
A 4-0 friendly defeat to Belgium was hardly the perfect preparation for Scotland’s opening League C1 match but Alex McLeish will now have to pick his troops up as Albania head to Hampden Park.
It is now one win from their last seven outings for the Scots but this looks a good fixture to build some momentum.
Albania made a winning start in the Nations League by beating Israel 1-0 on Friday and have some decent quality, with Napoli’s Elseid Hysaj and Atalanta’s Etrit Berisha arguably the pick of the bunch.
They do lack thrust in attack though; however, there are holes for Christian Panucci’s men to exploit in this new look Scottish back three.
Home advantage could prove the key and the Scots should build some momentum in an entertaining game.
Portugal and Italy clash in League A2 and both head into the game with points to prove on the international stage.
The Selecao will be without Cristiano Ronaldo who has chosen to skip the September internationals in order to help acclimatise to playing at new club Juventus.
A last-16 elimination at the World Cup was below par after winning Euro 2016 but at least they were there, with Italy missing out altogether.
The Azzurri are rebuilding under Roberto Mancini but could only draw 1-1 at home to Poland on Friday, and have lost four out of the last five meetings between the pair.
It was Portugal who won their most recent meeting but without Ronaldo’s magic, this looks a tough one to call so go for goals on both sides.
The final game to look at on Monday is a potential stalemate between Sweden and Turkey, with neither pulling up trees in attack.
The Swedes somehow topped Group F at the World Cup before being eliminated by England in the quarter-finals, while Turkey have talented players but lack quality across the field.
Losing 2-1 at home to Russia does not bode well for the Crescent-Stars but they are unbeaten in their last three meetings.
Mircea Lucescu’s men look to lack a bit of a game plan and will struggle to break down the Swedes, who, as ever, will be well organised but functional rather than fantastic.
The Blagult were second best in their 2-0 friendly defeat to Austria on Thursday but are usually handy at home and could well come out with a victory and a clean sheet at 39/20.
Onto Wednesday’s fixtures and the one that catches the eye has to be Croatia’s trip to the Baix Vinalopo where they face Spain in Elche.
The Vatreni surprised us all by reaching the final of the World Cup and are planning for the next stage of their development following the retirements of the likes of Danijel Subasic and Mario Mandzukic.
They still have Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric in midfield and the pair will be looking to control the game against a Spanish side who are themselves in transition after another poor showing at a major tournament.
A 2-1 win over England in their opening Nations Cup outing was a good way to start and Luis Enrique’s more direct approach is likely to reinvigorate a team who had become caught up in their own intricacy.
Although Croatia drew 1-1 with Portugal on Thursday, they are missing key players in Ante Rebic and Andrej Kramaric and La Roja should come out on top in an entertaining affair.
As mentioned above, Belgium had no issues in their 4-0 win over Scotland and will expect more of the same when they head to Iceland.
The Strakarnir okkar were shambolic in Saturday’s 6-0 defeat to Switzerland and already appear the real underdogs in the battle to get anything out of League A3.
Erik Hamren is now in charge but looks to have his work cut out to squeeze more out of a limited pool of players who seem to be running out of momentum.
In contrast, the Belgians appear to be evolving, with Youri Tielemans especially sharp against the Scots, although he is unlikely to start in Reykjavik, with Axel Witsel set to come back in.
Eden Hazard was amongst the scorers at Hampden Park and is 27/20 to score at anytime on what should be a comfortable evening for the Rode Duivels.
The best of the rest could be Moldova against Belarus in Group D2, with an away win a very handy price.
A 5-0 win over San Marino will have put the White Wings in high spirits and they travel to Chisinau to face a Moldovan outfit fresh from a 4-0 defeat in Luxembourg.
In fact, Moldova have not beaten anyone of any real note since winning 5-2 away at a then embryonic Montenegrin side.
Belarus have lost only one of their last five, three of those being victories and it looks like them against Luxembourg for the top spot in the pool.
Victory on Tuesday would put them in a strong position ahead of Les Lions Rouges’ visit to Minsk in October.
The lack of quality in Alexandru Spiridon’s side is a worry so look out for the away win in this one.
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