Thursday 12th November 2020
In Across the Leagues today:
There’s a big night of International football ahead, and I’ve got plenty of pointers for you…
The Euro 2020 Qualification Playoffs are the main event. These are huge matches for the eight nations involved, with a spot at next summer’s rearranged Euro 2020 finals up for grabs.
Expect some squeaky bums this evening – these playoff matches will all be decided tonight, one way or another, with extra time and penalties if required:
Georgia v North Macedonia
Hungary v Iceland
Northern Ireland v Slovakia
Serbia v Scotland
My focus is on the two ties involving the Home Nations. Suffice to say these are big, big games for Northern Ireland and Scotland. And they could be very, very close…
In the last round of playoffs in October, Scotland went through on penalties after a dire 0-0 draw v Israel. Northern Ireland also scraped through in a shootout, after a 1-1 draw in normal time & extra time in Bosnia.
Low goals could well be the story this evening, too. I saw a great stat earlier. Apparently, less than half of all the European Championship Playoff ties played since 1995 have seen both teams score (42%).
Sifting through the 2020 form for these countries, there’s also plenty of evidence for some low-scoring games tonight…
Serbia v Scotland:
Northern Ireland v Slovakia:
The bookmakers are taking no chances when it comes to pricing up the Total Goals markets for today. Under 2.5 Goals in the Scotland game is odds-on at 4/7 (1.57) in general, and just 2/5 (1.4) for the Northern Ireland match.
If you’re happy with short prices, then the stats say those two low-goals options will likely keep your bets alive for the best part of 90 minutes tonight.
In the Correct Score markets, the 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, and 1-1 scores are all at the top of the betting, at between 5/1 and 10/1.
Star men to rise to the occasion…
Of course, while the tension will likely be almost unbearable at stages this evening, there’s always the potential for a one-off game like this to turn into a cup-match ding-dong…
One case in point would be the 2-2 draw in the Euro 2016 Playoff, 2nd leg between Denmark and Sweden. That game saw three goals scored in the last 15 minutes.
And we can also note something else from that result from the previous playoffs four years ago: a situation like this can see the cream rise to the top. That night, Sweden’s superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic got both goals for his country…
If a star man is to deliver for his nation tonight, then two names to keep a close eye on are Aleksandar Mitrovic for Serbia, and Marek Hamsik for Slovakia…
If the Anytime Scorer market, Mitrovic is the 11/10 (2.1) favourite for Serbia v Scotland.
At much more attractive prices, Slovakia’s most-capped player and all-time top scorer, Hamsik is much more appealing to me at 4/1+.
Long-time readers will remember we had success backing Hamsik to score at Euro 2016… he was a Napoli player in those days. Now, the 33-year-old plays his club football in China, at Dalian, where a familiar name is his manager – Rafael Benitez.
Last month, Hamsik scored the opener in Slovakia’s 2-3 defeat v Israel in the UEFA Nations League.
Given that Northern Ireland are without a win in normal time in nine games, and have failed to score in three out of four home outings during that run. There’s all the encouragement we need to go after an away player at an attractive price here. Hamsik at 4/1+ Anytime fits the bill for me.
If you were to follow the logic through that this Northern Ireland v Slovakia game could be a very low-scoring one, then odds on the radar would also include 10/1 for Hamsik to score First. And if you were getting ambitious, a speculative ‘Hamsik & Slovakia 1-0’ Scorecast pays 33/1 with Paddy Power.
In the Scotland game, a Serbia player at much bigger odds than Mitrovic is Lazio’s 25-year-old midfielder, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, at 4/1 with Bet365 and around 3/1 in general. Between them, Mitrovic (2) and Milinkovic-Savic (3) have accounted for all five of Serbia’s goals in 2020.
Ahead of the first round of playoffs in October, I flagged up two Scotland players as appealing outside chances in the Scorer markets…
Celtic midfielder Ryan Christie ended up a void bet, as he had to go into self-isolation, and leave the squad. After that news, QPR striker Lyndon Dykes was my pick, and he played in that 0-0 draw v Israel… then went and scored the first & only goal of the game just three days later, with Scotland beating Slovakia 1-0 in the Nations League.
With goals likely to be at a premium in tonight’s crunch match, I’m being selective here and going for Christie at 5/1. He’s a point or so bigger in the betting than Dykes, has scored in two of his last five appearances for Celtic, and is likely to pull rank if Scotland get a penalty kick this evening. Christie has scored from the spot in each of his last two games for Scotland, both times with QPR penalty taker Dykes also on the pitch.
Christie has scored in seven of his 21 appearances for club & country this season. That 33% strike-rate is double the percentage chance implied by odds of 5/1 for him to score tonight.
I’m no big fan of International Friendly matches (who is?). The Euro 2020 Playoffs will be on my TV screen this evening. But I’ll also be keeping an eye on England v Republic of Ireland…
Aside from the obvious rivalry element here, it’s the England Most Corners trend that will have me tuning in and checking the stats:
That’s an 85% strike-rate that’s hard to ignore. And it’s a bet that’s paid out more times than backing England to win all 40 of those matches. On that note, England are odds-on for the win tonight, at 2/5 (1.4) – but each of their last five encounters with Ireland have ended in a draw.
Gareth Southgate’s side are even shorter for the Most Corners, at 1/4 (1.25) at best with Skybet. The -3 Corner Handicap at Evens (2.0) offers a more palatable return, although the Three Lions have only covered that in one of their last six attempts at Wembley.
No bet for me there. But I’ll be keeping a check on England’s corners form, with future fixtures in mind.
From the analysis above, here are the prices that I like today – two Anytime Scorers, at 4/1+ each…
Euro 2020, Qualification Playoffs
7,45pm – Sky Sports
Northern Ireland v Slovakia:
Serbia v Scotland:
I’ll be back tomorrow with standout stats, picks & analysis for the weekend fixtures.
Enjoy the football…