With top-flight domestic action in the UK taking a well-deserved breather, international football returns this week, with the home nations all looking to strengthen their chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. With Martin O’Neil’s Ireland currently sitting pretty at the top of Group D, rivals Wales head to the Aviva Stadium on Friday, bidding to rediscover the form that took them to the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Meanwhile in Group F, both England and Scotland will be hoping to take advantage of playing in front of their home support this weekend, with Gordon Strachan’s men in particular in desperate need of three points. Beforehand, Gareth Southgate faces the biggest test of his England managerial career to date, with the Three Lions travelling to Dortmund to take on reigning World Champions Germany. Finally, Northern Ireland have two wins from their opening four games in Group C, as they look to consolidate their second-place position with a win over Norway at Windsor Park.
Wednesday 22nd March – 19:45
Germany v England
One of world football’s greatest rivalries renews this week, with Joachim Low’s Germany hosting England on Wednesday evening, with the home side looking to gain revenge for their defeat between the two teams at this stage last year. With Captain Wayne Rooney having been dropped from the squad by Southgate, and with Harry Kane out injured, England could well have a new look to them, with Marcus Rashford looking to add to his six caps to date. Despite the likes of Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse and Jake Livermore having earned call-ups, it is the return of Jermain Defoe that caused the biggest surprise among supporters. A host of Premier League stars will be hoping to get one over on their team mates for Germany, with Leroy Sane and Mesut Ozil likely to cause England major concerns in the attacking third.
World Cup Betting Tips for Germany v England
Value Bet – Both teams to score @ 8/11 (SkyBet)
Long Shot – England to win against Germany @ 7/2 (Bet365)
Friday 24th March – 19:45
Republic of Ireland v Wales
Martin O’Neil faces an injury crisis ahead of Friday night’s game, with a number of players facing a race against time to be fit for the encounter against Wales. With Robbie Brady already suspended, the likes of James McCarthy, Harry Arter and Ciaran Clark are all major doubts through injury. Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale will undoubtedly be the biggest threat for the visitors, with Chris Coleman looking to pick up three points that would lift them to within a single point of Ireland. Elsewhere, Premier League stars Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen helping to make up a strong Welsh side.
World Cup Betting Tips for Republic of Ireland v Wales
Value Bet – Republic or Ireland to win against Wales @ 13/10 (Betway)
Long Shot – Gareth Bale as first goalscorer @ 4/1 (SkyBet)
Sunday 26th March – 17:00
England v Lithuania
After a difficult away trip to Germany, England return to Wembley as they bid to strengthen their position at the top of Group F with a win over minnows Lithuania. The visitors have just one win from their opening qualifying fixtures, with many of their players playing in the lower leagues around Europe. The two sides met in the Euro 2016 qualifiers back in 2015, with England coming out on top with an aggregate score of 7-0 over the two games. Very few players remain from such encounters, with only Vardy and Kyle Walker likely to play from the start.
World Cup Betting Tips for England v Lithuania
Value Bet – England to win both halves against Lithuania @ 4/9 (Bet365)
Long Shot – England to win by a margin of +4 goals @ 9/4 (Bet365)
Sunday 26th March Scotland v Slovenia – 19:45
With only Malta separating Scotland from the bottom of Group F, the pressure is on Gordon Strachan to deliver a positive result at Hampden Park on Sunday. With the Scots taking on Canada in a midweek friendly, the former Southampton and Celtic boss may well look to experiment with his squad, with the likes of Tom Cairney, Ryan Fraser, Stuart Armstrong and Liam Cooper hoping to earn their first international caps. Having missed out on qualification for Euro 2016 in France, a win for Scotland is a must if they are to make their first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
World Cup Betting Tips for Scotland v Slovenia
Value Bet – Scotland to win against Slovenia @ 7/5 (Betway)
Long Shot – Slovenia to draw or win against Scotland @ 8/15 (SkyBet)