After a disappointing start to their Nations League campaign, the Republic of Ireland have a point to prove on Thursday night when they travel to Bratislava to take on Slovakia with their place at next summer’s Euros under threat.
The two sides will meet at the Narodny Futbalovy Stadion in their Euro 2020 play-off semi-final tie, but the visitors need to improve if they are to progress into the next round.
Northern Ireland and Scotland are also in action on Thursday night, and it promises to be a huge night for the home nations.
Stephen Kenny’s Republic side started their Nations League campaign with a draw against Bulgaria before they then lost to Finland at home.
The critics have already jumped on Kenny’s back, but the former Dundalk coach says he was experimenting with his players during those two games.
Changes are likely, while Seamus Coleman is out injured, meaning Matt Doherty will remain at right-back.
Ireland have lacked some creativity of late, but with so much criticism, it is likely they come out firing with so much at stake.
Slovakia also have injury woes to contend with, with goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and left-back David Hancho missing. Napoli star Stanislav Lobotka should also miss out after he and his club team-mates were forced into self-isolation due to coronavirus.
Kenny’s side are unbeaten in all five of their previous matches against Slovakia, and, at odds of
8/5, we fancy them to win.
Scotland’s Preparations Up in the Air
Scotland will have been confident of grabbing the win against Israel, with Steve Clarke’s side unbeaten in their last five matches.
However, both camps have been hit by coronavirus-related withdrawals in the last 48 hours. Southampton midfielder Stuart Armstrong has tested positive, and Ryan Christie and Kieran Tierney have been told to self-isolate after being deemed close contacts.
Israel will be without Taleb Tawatha and Dor Peretz after they too tested positive, and Dan Bitton and Loai Taha have replaced them.
Scotland have lost just one of their previous six matches against Israel, but with the late changes we expect a close encounter.
Under 1.5 goals looks an inviting bet at
11/5, with nerves also set to play their part.
NI Hoping to Capitalise on Bosnia’s Poor Form
Northern Ireland know what it is like to face Bosnia-Herzegovina, having lost twice to them during their Nations League campaign in 2018.
Michael O’Neill was in charge then, but Bosnia’s squad remains largely in tact – and it still includes the twin threat of Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Barcelona midfielder Miralem Pjanic.
New boss Ian Baraclough has urged his side not to focus on the pair, and he will take confidence from Bosnia’s recent form.
They have won just four of their last 14 matches in all competitions, while they have lost their previous two at home in a row.
Northern Ireland may not get the job done on the night, but we fancy them to take the game into added time, and the double chance market looks inviting, with Barcalough’s side
21/20 to draw or win.
*All odds correct at time of writing.