Thursday marks the starts of qualifying for Euro 2020 and all those involved will be keen to get off to a flyer, as they aim for the 16th edition of the European Championship.
First to Group I where Scotland head east to take on Kazakhstan in what is expected to be an extremely cold Astana.
The complicated nature of qualifying means the Scots will have at least a play-off place due to them being one of the co-hosts. They face a tricky opener against a team who have lost just one of their last six on home soil, with a penchant for pulling off results on their plastic pitch.
Artificial surfaces are a topic that has split Scottish football in recent months and a couple of English-based players will not be available due to objections from their clubs over them not playing on grass. The conditions will only make things tougher for Alex McLeish’s side, in what is the Scots’ first ever trip to Central Asia.
Scotland came through a decent Nations League pool involving both Albania and Israel but can be flaky on the road. The Kazakhs may be worth a look in the double chance market at 20/23 and the amount of defensive absentees for the Tartan Army means goals are likely.
Despite losing out to Scotland in the Nations League, Israel are becoming a decent team under Andi Herzog. They have won their last three at home and can fend off Slovenia in Group G.
Key to their recent success has been their ability to score more than once, doing so in their last four and they also have the impressive Munas Dabbur at their disposal.
The Red Bull Salzburg forward is a classic poacher who, when assessed, does not seem to have any outstanding qualities, but has still managed 22 goals across all competitions this season, including netting in his last two games against Napoli and Wacker Innsbruck.
Slovenia have two bonafide stars in goalkeeper Jan Oblak and playmaker Josip Ilicic but are a mixed bag elsewhere. If Oblak can keep them out at one end and Ilicic can do the business at the other, they have a fighting chance.
Israel’s possession-based style could prove too much and the home win looks the bet to be on due to the visitors losing to the likes of Norway and Cyprus in a run of one away win in 10.
Finally to the game in Vienna and Poland‘s strikeforce can see them through against Austria in the same pool as above.
The Poles struggled in a strong Nations League group alongside Italy and Portugal but since then have uncovered a real star in Krzysztof Piatek. Eight goals in 10 games since joining AC Milan shows his class and he is 12/5 as an Anytime Goalscorer.
The fact he may have to wait for his turn on the bench due to having Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik in front of him shows the depth the Bialo-czerwoni have in attack. They will be looking to break down an Austrian rearguard that has not conceded in three at home.
This is mainly due to them being a functional rather than fantastic team and the likelihood of Poland scoring means they will need to attack. Do not expect a classic although both to score is still a nice price at 20/21, as is the away win.
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