Thanks to the beloved international break there are no Premier League or Championship fixtures to preview ahead of the weekend but alas, the show must go on. I’ll be taking you through my best tips for the European qualifying fixtures, as I’m sure there will be some of you out there keen to bet Friday evening’s classic; where Cyprus take on Kazakhstan. In all seriousness, I’ve picked out six fixtures that might almost be worth watching.
Germany vs Netherlands
Two teams who are arguably headed in opposite directions meet in Group C’s game on Friday night with Germany, who crashed out in the group stages of last year’s World Cup, meet the Netherlands, who’s international malaise seems to have passed, coincidentally coinciding with the emergence of Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt. That being said, Germany triumphed with a comeback win against Netherlands in both teams’ last qualifier, and I expect Germany to grind out a result in Hamburg.
Germany 2-1 Netherlands
San Marino vs Belgium
Now I’m not claiming to be a betting expert, but if you were tempted by this game, I would expect Belgium to score at least two goals. Surely the odds on that will be really high since Belgium are playing away from home. In all seriousness, fair play to the San Marino players who show up and get absolutely spanked in almost every game they play, I hope they nick a goal just to see how their Twitter admin reacts. Realistically though Belgium could get double figures here if they really wanted to.
San Marino 0-7 Belgium
England vs Bulgaria
I’ll be honest, I don’t usually bother with these sorts of England games. I missed most of the World Cup due to being in America, and I don’t buy into the hype around the squad like a lot of people. Although there’s no shortage of attacking quality with Sancho and Sterling joining Kane up front, the fact that Jesse Lingard continues to be called up despite no goals or assists in the Premier League for nearly a year makes me think we’re a long way off the likes of France and Spain. Frankly, I’ve no idea how good Bulgaria will be, but if any of the other qualifiers are to go by, they’ll compete for the first half and roll over in the second. Only England could make a 3-0 win look boring.
England 3-0 Bulgaria
Serbia vs Portugal
This looks like one of the tastier ties from the weekend’s games, with arguably the two favourites in Group B meeting. There is added importance, however, as Serbia sit 3rd and Portugal 4th in their group after 3 games, and this game could spell serious trouble for the Euro holders and Cristiano Ronaldo. Serbia have a few players of note with Nemanja Matić and Sergej Milinković-Savić dominating in midfield and I very much doubt that the Serbian stadium will make a relaxing atmosphere for the away side. Hopefully, Portugal fail to qualify just so we don’t have to suffer a 35-year-old Ronaldo knocking us out on penalties next summer.
Serbia 3-1 Portugal
France vs Albania
In case you missed it, France won the World Cup recently. They’ll probably win the Euros too. They have a few good players you might have heard of, Kylian Mbappé, Raphaël Varane and Olivier Giroud just to name a few. Though their star player is undoubtedly Mr Consistent; Paul Pogba. Hold on I hear you say, he’s injured! Without Pogba, France are definitely rubbish and Albania could definitely, hopefully surprise them here. Elseid Hysaj is the only Albanian I can think of, and he’s actually quite good, so let’s hope he scores the winner and somehow (even though it’s probably mathematically impossible) knocks the French out in the qualifiers.
France 0-1 Albania
England vs Kosovo
Sorry to all my Cypriot and Kazakh readers, but I am unfortunately not going to be covering your game, even though I’m sure it’ll be one to tell the grandkids about. Instead, we’ll address England playing another home game against, with no disrespect to Kosovo, slightly inferior opposition. We’ll probably see the likes of Mings and Mount making their full England debuts in this one and I might even watch the highlights, as I feel like there could be a few of them. Jesse Lingard to come on and score England’s ninth goal of the evening before proceeding to dance and dab as if he’s actually any good at football. I know this is terrible tips, but you should definitely bet on that to happen.
England 9-0 Kosovo