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13/06/15 Football
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Date : 13th June 2015
There are a few huge games in this round of qualifying, none more so than Republic of Ireland facing Scotland on Saturday at 5pm on Sky Sports 1. Group D is one of the tightest in all of qualifying and most likely to receive the much bandied about ‘Group of Death’ title. With the two home countries battling it out with Germany and Poland for one of the two automatic spots, Saturday evening has become all the more crucial. If you accept wins against Georgia and Gibraltar as a given, and games against Germany and Poland as potentially a tough draw at best, the winner of this game stands the highest chance of securing a play-off spot at the very least.

Ireland’s recent dismal 0-0 draw with England will hopefully be forgotten, as out of the two sides the Boys in Green are the ones who most need a win. Sitting on 8 points, 2 behind Scotland and Germany and 3 behind Poland, if Ireland want to keep up the push for a play-off spot and beyond, a win against Scotland is almost a must have. So far Ireland have managed hard-earned draws against Germany and Poland, but lost 1-0 to the Scots at Celtic Park back in November.

Scotland’s unlucky loss against Germany in their opening game is the only defeat they have suffered with a similarly unlucky draw against Poland being the only other time they have dropped points. They have won their last 3 games in a row, including a strong 6-1 workout against Gibraltar. Neither of these sides would have expected to be challenging for an automatic spot with World Cup winners Germany, yet 5 games in and that is the way things are looking.

With 4 goals Shaun Maloney is Scotland’s top scorer in qualifying, and the man who got the winner in the first game between these two sides, so eyes will him to perform once again. Yet the necessity of the win, and the buoyant home crowd advantage, has meant our Spreadex traders fancy Martin O’Neill’s side at a Republic of Ireland/Scotland Goal Supremacy spread betting quote of 0.15-0.35 with a Total Goals spread of 2.1-2.3.

Saturday’s other home countries game sees Northern Ireland take on Romania at 7.45pm on Sky Sports 5. Michael O’Neill’s side are in one of the easier qualifying groups, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that for a traditionally struggling side they have done remarkably well. They are 2nd in Group F on 12 points to Romania’s 13, with a comfortable 4 point gap between them and Hungary; in theory then, they should at least get to the play-offs, though an automatic spot in 2016’s expanded-cup is equally achievable.

Frustratingly the only team they have dropped points against was Romania, in a 2-0 defeat in Bucharest last November. However, with Kyle Lafferty in fine form, top scorer in the group on 5 goals and joint with Thomas Muller and Israel’s Omar Damari for second highest scorer in qualifying overall, Northern Ireland will go into this game ready for a win.

Yet only a draw against Hungary prevents Romania from having all 15 points, and the Tricolorii will prove to be a tough test for Northern Ireland, even if they are playing in Belfast at Windsor Park. Romania have only conceded 1 goal in their 5 qualifying matches leaving them, alongside England and Belgium, with the meanest defence at the midway point. This meanness has given Romania the edge, at a very slim Romania/Northern Ireland (h) Goal Supremacy spread of 0.15-0.35 with a Total Goals spread of 2-2.2.

Finally Sunday’s big game, if only for the national interest, sees England visit Slovenia at 5pm on ITV. Only Slovakia in Group C can match England’s qualifying performance, with just those 2 sides remaining without a defeat. Granted, Slovakia’s achievement is rather more impressive; they are in a group with Spain and Ukraine, whilst the only real team of note in England’s Group E is Switzerland, and maybe Slovenia at a push.

Nevertheless 5 wins is 5 wins, and England are likely to reach a 6th when they visit Ljubljana. Frustratingly England will be without the qualifiers’ top scorer Danny Welbeck who has got 6 goals in 5 qualifying games internationally. Instead they will be looking to their usual talisman Wayne Rooney, who has 4 goals so far in qualifying and is only 3 goals away from becoming England’s top scorer of all time, leaving him at 15/4 fixed odds to score first.

Impressively, for all England’s goal-scoring prowess in the qualifiers, averaging 3 goals a game, they have only conceded 1, in their 3-1 victory over Slovenia in November. Slovenia themselves shouldn’t be sniffed at, however; they are second in Group E on 9 points, the same as Switzerland, and have Milivoje Novakovic on 4 goals so far, and at 15/2 to score first. Yet given that Slovenia recently lost to football’s current favourite country Qatar, the Three Lions shouldn’t be too troubled and sit at an England/Slovenia (h) Goal Supremacy spread of 0.55-0.75 with a Total Goals spread of 2.25-2.45.
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