2-legged World Cup qualifiers will likely see nerves and 'we daren't concede' play their parts. You will see I have gone for a pre-match 0-0 back (at its highest odds) in a number of matches. This is because I think we can get to halftime goal-less in order to trade out. A look at Croatia and Greece and we see defensive strengths and 1-0 wins. Looking at Iceland U21 too we see a strong defensive bent from them away from home.
Enough to keep the Spanish U21 side quiet at least for the first half? Belgium U21 seem to huff and puff in their matches so another 0-0 pre-match and a hope they struggle to score as they did v Malta (43rd minute goal). I will be online throughout the day so if there are any trades to be had from 14:00 onwards, I will tweet them. I am not sure the World Cup qualifiers warrant a live chat. These are 2-legged affairs and I would suggest the second-leg will be readable as teams will know what they must do, taking cues from the first leg.
WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS EUROPE
19:45 - Croatia v Greece - 1.4 Croatia
- This is a 2-legged play-off so tactics will play a massive part for both teams. The home team will want to win at home.
- Greece only got scoring in World Cup qualifiers v the likes of Cyrprus and Gibraltar.
- Their strengths are defence. A team as chock full of talent as Belgium took til the 89th minute to score with home advantage.
- Greece away from home in World Cup qualifiers were actually unbeaten throughout 2013, 2016 and 2017 which should serve as a cursory warning to Croatia and indeed the market makers who have written Greece off here.
- Croatia's only losses in qualifying came v Iceland and Turkey, 1-0 defeats away. So they are vulnerable to a defensive set up.
- 5 wins were all wins to nil for Croatia but note, 3 of those wins were 1-0 only.
- This is a match in which backing 0-0 pre match might pay off. Mandzukic, Kalinic, Rakitic, Perisic, Modric, that's a solid set of of kics, nics, tics, sics and rics. On paper that is some forward line but the fact is they have been reliant on defense to set up a foundation for tight wins. I tend to trade out of any 0-0's at halftime if lucky enough to see a 0-0 at halftime.
19:45 - Northern Ireland v Switzerland - 2.32 Switzerland
- This 2nd world cup qualifier 2 legged play-off sees 2 sides who tend to avoid draws.
- Northern Ireland had an excellent record in their group, losing twice to Germany but falling foul of Norway away 1-0.
- The Swiss were excellent, winning every match bar a 2-0 loss v Portugal last match. BUT on the face of it, the Swiss really had a fairly easy group. Look at the likes of Andorra, Faroe Islands, Latvia. That puts the winning sequence into some perspective.
- This is going to be a real test for the Swiss. NI are no minnows and the easy pickings of Andorra et al will not be found at WIndsor Park.
- As a home team in qualifiers NI had plenty of goals in 4 goal wins v San Marino and Azerbaijan.. 2-0 wins v Norway and Czechs show they can mix it against the other-than-minnows. Note all of those wins had clean sheets.
- The Swiss again look as if they have excellent away form but 4 of their last 6 away sides were Albania, Andorra, Faroes and Latvia. Poor teams indeed.
- This is such a tough match to predict. I do think NI's key to success will be keeping another home clean sheet. Only Germany scored at Windsor park in the last 5 matches. The Swiss have that question mark about their form. My old Sunday League side could be the bunch they have been playing in what was a soft group.
- I would tentatively look at NI not losing this match today.
U21 EURO CHAMPIONSHIPS
These matches have been very tradable if we maintain a focus on what the in-play stats reveal. To re-cap, free in-play stats are available at www.flashscore.com and at www.willhill.com I tend to focus on shots on target, shots off target and corners. Yes, corners. If a team is dominating the corner count, then they are consistently in the correct part of the pitch.
14:00 - Azerbaijan U21 v Germany U21 - 1.06 Germany U21
- As with Croatia U21 v San Marino U21 we should not immediately dismiss these apparent sure things. There could be a goals angle.
- Group 5 sees ze Germans 2nd to the Republic of Ireland. Azerbaijan are yet to win any points.
- 3 draws and 3 defeats since 2016.
- They are just coming off the back of a 6-1 loss to Germany U21.
- They have scored a consolation goal in 2 3-1 defeats and a 6-1 defeat.
- 1-1 v Faroes and 1-3 loss to Ireland in their most recent 2 home matches.
- Only 2 defeats since September 2015 came v Italy U21 and most recently v Norway U21
- A deeper look at recent form sees 1-0 wins v the likes of Kosovo U21. That is dire! But then we get the 6-1 v today's opponents.
- 1-0 loss, 2-2 draw, 3-1 loss last 3 aways.
- Usually I'd be heading for the correct score win to nil here but Azerbaijan have shown that they have a goal in them, albeit it tends to be a consolation goal.
- Germany U21 should win, albeit it could be functional rather than spectacular. At 1.07 I am a layer despite the Azerbaijanis being clearly pants with a capital P. Germany no win in 3 away and a solitary 1-0 v a team as poor as Kosovo has been laying.
18:00 - France U21 v Bulgaria U21 - 1.21 France U21
- The first 3 in Group 9 are tight points wise with France U21 leading the group.
- 5 consecutive wins. 3 consecutive wins conceding 1-1-2 goals. These are poor sides they are conceding against, the likes of Kazakhstan U21, Montenegro U21 and Luxembourg U21
- There is no doubting these cheese eating surrender monkeys are strong at home. All wins bar 2 draws since September 2010.
- They have, though, conceded in 3 of their last 4 matches. Montenegro and Kazahstan both scored first so there is hope for a trade today.
- Only 2 points from the 3 matches sees a loss and 2 score draws v Kazakhstan U21.
- Bulgaria U21 would have beaten the Kazaks in their 2-2 but for a late red card and a subsequent equaliser.
- 0-0 away v Luxembourg U21, 0-1 win v Armenia U21 and 1-1 v Kazak U21 sees defensive set ups away from home.
- It is clear that the form of these countries is not related to the form of the main International team.
- France U21 have been conceding first at home but then winning. That is the readiest angle we have for this match.
18:00 - Slovenia U21 v Montenegro U21 - 1.93 Slovenia U21
- 1-3 Slovenia U21 the last time these 2 met and that was away from home.
- Things changed after a Montenegran red card.
- Only 1 draw since October 2013.
- 2nd in Group 9 behind France.
- 2 3-1 wins and a 1-1 draw so far. The draw and win was v Luxembourg U21.
- 6 wins in their last 7 at home.
- A draw and 2 defeats to date. Only lost 2-1 to France U21 and that red card changed a tight game v Slovenia U21.
- Scored and conceded in all matches.
- I could foresee a 1-1 and possibly a late 2-1 for Slovenia U21 today. I must say that ordinarily this would not be a match of interest but it is quiet.
- I would lay Montenegro U21 if they scored first given their scoring and conceding record.
18:30 - Spain U21 v Iceland U21 - 1.17 Spain U21
- Northern Ireland lead Group 2 with the Spanish behind. Note though that NI have played 4 matches to the Spaniards 2.
- Only 3 losses in this competition since October 2011.
- 0-1 v Estonia and 1-4 v Slovakia so far in this group.
- 4 clean sheets in 5 home matches. Italy U21 scored in a 3-1 win for Spain U21.
- 2-3 loss to Albania U21, 0-2 win v Slovakia U21 and 0-0 again v Albania U21 this Icelandic side look a bit inconsistent.
- Their away performances are punctuated by clean sheets. They have conceded 0-0-0-0-0-2-0-0 in recent away matches.
- France U21 won 2-0.
- It is difficult to evaluate the teams Iceland U21 kept all of those clean sheets against, as compared with Spain U21.
- 0-0 might be backable here if the Icelanders frustrate. Obviously they have an away-from-home defensive plan. And with Spain U21 only beating Estonia 0-1, they might be in for wait before a goal.
- I would trade out at halftime if lucky enough to get the 0-0 that far.
- 1.17 odds usually suggests 3/4 goals for Spain U21. We shall see whether this Icelandic wall is that penetrable.
19:00 - Belgium U21 v Cyprus U21 - 1.18 Belgium U21
- 0-2 Belgium U21 in October this year.
- Sweden U21 have a game in hand and lie 2nd between these 2 teams in Group 6.
- This side don't look as devastating as the first team. 2-1 only v Malta U21. 0-0 v Turkey U21, 1-1 v Sweden U21 and 0-2 v Cyprus U21.
- The goals in that last win came 51st and 90th minute. The goals v Malta u21 came 43rd minute onwards.
- 2 consecutive home draws now 0-0 and 1-1 follow that Malta 2-1.
- 2 Cypriot wins were 2-1 and came at home.
- 4-1 loss away to Sweden U21 and a 0-2 home loss to Belgium U21.
- Only 1 away win since September 2012 for Cyprus U21 sees clear advantage Belgium U21. Their 0-2 win in Cyprus looked to have been flattered by a 90th minute 2nd goal to add gloss to the 1-0.
- We may have to wait for a Belgium opener. Again is this another 0-0 pre match back? It took them to the 43rd minute to score against Malta U21.
- I know we cannot keep going for 0-0 pre-match but it looks the most logical opening gambit.
- 1.18 odds suggests 3/4 goals for Belgium U21 but their scorelines so far do not suggest they will be as comfortable.