It’s a big weekend of international football friendlies as many of teams who have qualified for the 2018 World Cup Finals continue their preparation for the big event. England travel to Holland, whilst Brazil get a taste of Russia. There’s also a big clash between two of the fancied teams in Germany and Spain.
Meanwhile, Portugal and Egypt may not sound riveting at first, but it does feature two seriously in-form strikers as Ronaldo takes on Salah. There’s also some interesting top of the table League 1 and League 2 action in England.
Russia vs Brazil (Friday 4.00)
Brazil have failed to win just two of their last 27 friendlies but quite what the Brazilians will make of the weather in March in Russia is anyone’s guess. Brazil are also without PSG hitman Neymar, but it’s hard to think that any of the current Russian Team would force their way into the Brazilian team even in his absence.
Russia have improved over the last few months though as they try and find some form in the run up to hosting the 2018 World Cup, and a draw against Spain and a one goal defeat by Argentina suggest they won’t be taking it easy.
However, even in the coldest of Russian weather, it’s easy to see Brazil holding a sub-standard Russian attack at bay whilst grabbing at least one or two goals. Therefore, it’s could be worth backing Brazil to win to nil.
Russia : 76.13 (6.85) with Unibet
Draw : 31/10 (4.10) with Unibet
Brazil : 11/21 (1.52) with Unibet
Netherlands vs England (Friday 7.45)
The Netherlands may not be an easy side to beat but, as Ronald Koeman’s team haven’t qualified for the 2018 World Cup Finals, it’s easy to argue that they should pose less of a challenge than England’s last two opponents Brazil and Germany. However, though England won the last competitive match between the two sides 4-1 at the 1996 European Championships, England have failed to beat the Dutch in seven international friendlies since. The last two friendlies were played at Wembley in 2012 and 2016, and Holland won both by a single goal, 2-1 and 3-2. However, the last three friendlies played in Holland have all resulted in draws.
The Netherlands may have a point to prove as Koeman tries to once again make them a dominant force in world football, and they have won eight of their last nine games. However, their 4-0 defeat by France again suggests they’re still vulnerable against the better teams. Whether England fall into the “better teams” category is debatable, especially as they’ll be without Harry Kane. Therefore, Gareth Southgate may well set his stall out for this to be a low-scoring affair, especially as he may well try out a few uncapped players. It’s hard to see England winning if that’s the case, so the value may well be the draw.
Netherlands : 8/5 (2.60) with Unibet
Draw : 40/17 (3.35) with Unibet
England : 37/19 (2.95) with Unibet
Germany vs Spain (Friday 7.45)
The 2014 World Cup winners Germany should again be big contenders at Russia 2018, and their renowned meticulous preparation includes doing homework on two of their perceived biggest rivals as they take on Spain here before they play a friendly against Brazil next week. Of course, this is a battle between the last two World Cup winners and, if past results are anything to go by, it could be a real cat and mouse affair as both teams seek knowledge of the other without giving too many secrets away.
Both teams have been imperious in qualifying, and Germany’s unbeaten run now stretches back 21 games, whilst Spain are unbeaten in 16 games. The last three matches between them have ended 1-0, with Spain winning the two competitive matches and Germany the friendly. The two games before those were won 3-1 by Spain and 4-1 by Germany, whilst the three games before those produced three draws, two finishing 1-1 and the other 0-0.
Therefore, this looks unlikely to be a high-scoring affair with less than 2.5 goals looking sure to be a popular bet. However, with the last three games ending 1-0, less than 1.5 goals could be the brave man’s bet.
Germany : 7/5 (2.40) with Unibet
Draw : 12/5 (3.40) with Unibet
Spain : 11/5 (3.20) with Unibet
Portugal vs Egypt (Friday 7.45)
This looks a mismatch on paper with European Champion Portugal taking on an Egyptian side that has just qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 28-years. However, it’s a match that features the two hottest goalscorers in the world right now in Christian Ronaldo and Mo Salah. Ronaldo has hit back at the early-season critics who suggested he was in decline by recently hitting the amazing mark of 50 career hat-tricks, whilst he’s been in devastating form in both the Champions League and La Liga of late.
However, it will be interesting to see whether Mo Salah can crack open the mean Portuguese defence that has conceded just once in their last five matches. It’s no surprise to see that Portugal are odds-on favourites for this one but, from an armchair fan perspective, it could be worth backing both Ronaldo and Salah to score at any time.
Portugal : 4/7 (1.57) with Unibet
Draw : 14/5 (3.80) with Unibet
Egypt : 28/5 (6.60) with Unibet
This week may be dominated by Internationals, but there’s still all to play for in League 1 in England as both Shrewsbury and Wigan will be hoping to leapfrog current leaders Blackburn. Wigan certainly didn’t seem to have any hangovers from their FA Cup defeat by Southampton as they beat Walsall 3-0 on Wednesday and, if their last two home games against Bury are anything to by, they should be collecting three more points at Bury on Saturday. However, Bury won the last time they met at Bury 4-0 in the 2015/16 FA Cup.
It might be Shrewsbury who go top though as they play hosts to a Wimbledon team who they’ve beat in the last two renewals of this fixture, whilst they have already won 1-0 at Wimbledon this season.
Luton have a chance to close the gap on leaders Accrington but, having now gone five games without a win, there must be a big question about them taking that chance as they host a Barnet side who beat them in the EFL Trophy this season. If Luton fail, Wycombe could easily jump up to second as they host a Port Vale side they’ve already beaten away from home this season.
FA Cup News
Last week’s FA Cup matches went the way of the big-guns as none of the underdogs managed to make it to the semi-finals. Chelsea arguably fared best in the draw as they will take on Southampton, and the bookies promoted Chelsea to favourites because of that.
That leaves Tottenham to take on Manchester United at Wembley, which has caused controversy with Tottenham having the advantage of playing their home games at Wembley this season. Tottenham have also already beaten United there 2-0 this season, and they’re now second-favourites to life the FA Cup for the first time since 1991.