Focus falls on heavy favourites England

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No sooner has the football season got going than it all comes to a crashing halt – for the top two divisions, anyway.

Attention turns to the first international break of the season and England’s bid to secure a place at the World Cup next year.

The first match of a double header for Roy Hodgson’s men looks the most straightforward assignment, the Three Lions hosting Moldova tomorrow (Friday) night before heading to Ukraine next week and bookies are confident that England will secure all three points at Wembley.

Indeed, supporters can’t expect to make a fortune based on a home win – BetVictor’s 1/14 chalked against Hodgson’s side the best available – so it’s fair to suggest that shrewd punters will be seeking value elsewhere.

England have played Moldova three times before, winning 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0, and you can get 18/1 at Stan James for this sequence to continue with a 6-0 romp. Another 5-0 success comes in at a skinnier 9/1 (bet365) and it’s 9/2 courtesy of betway for the hosts to notch three times without reply.

Bet365 post 4/11 against any victory ‘to nil’ for the Three Lions, it’s a safe-looking 4/9 with BetVictor or the contest to produce three or more goals and those thinking that Moldova – Stan James’s 28/1 outsiders – will take heart from Scotland’s recent visit to Wembley and stick at least one past an increasingly jittery Joe Hart, Stan James quote odds of 9/4 that both teams will score.

In attack, Daniel Sturridge has made a stunning start to the campaign for Liverpool and he’s 10/3 (bet365) to transfer his form to the international arena by breaking the deadlock. BetVictor meanwhile, rate Rickie Lambert at 19/4 to build on his dream debut last month, by bagging the opener.

Scotland are playing for pride only as they welcome a talented Belgium outfit to Hampden Park and accordingly it’s the latter that hold all of the aces according to bookmakers, William Hill pricing them at 3/4 to edge closer to qualification for Brazil and Paddy Power chalking Gordon Strachan’s troops up at 4/1.

Stan James offer 13/5 for the spoils to be shared but the quality in the Belgian squad suggests that the visitors should edge it.

Nevertheless, after their encouraging performance in the recent friendly against England, the Scots are capable of getting on the scoresheet so a case can be made for both teams finding the net (evens,

Jordan Rhodes is the main danger in that department from the hosts’ perspective, Ladbrokes rating the Blackburn man at 3/1 to strike at some point and also at 3/1 in the same market, this time via Stan James, is Marouane Fellaini, fresh from completing his transfer to Manchester United.

Another man to have sealed a big money move on deadline day was Gareth Bale and the Real Madrid new boy is 9/5 at BetVictor to celebrate with a goal as Wales go to Macedonia. Chris Coleman’s troops however, are bet365’s 5/2 underdogs, with the home side 6/5 with Ladbrokes.

Over in Dublin, Paddy Power can’t separate Ireland and Sweden, offering both at 17/10 to come out on top. The Aviva Stadium contest is 23/10 (Stan James) to prove inconclusive, it’s 9/1 via BetVictor to end goalless and 4/1 (Skybet) to be level at the end of each half.

Finally, Northern Ireland picked up an impressive point in their away clash at Portugal but as the pair prepare to renew hostilities in Belfast, Paulo Bento’s team are just 1/3 courtesy of William Hill to emerge triumphant on this occasion. Elsewhere, bet365 quote 9/2 for the Portuguese to register a 2-0 victory and it’s just 9/4 at for Cristiano Ronaldo to put his team 1-0 up.

Ricky Burns laboured somewhat in the last defence of his WBO lightweight title against Jose Gonzalez in May but the Scot can put on a more convincing display as he takes on Raymundo Beltran in Glasgow this weekend.

Burns is just 1/4 at bet365 to retain his strap at the expense of his Mexican opponent, who has rarely fought outside of the USA and the six defeats on Beltran’s card suggest that the home fighter is a worthy favourite.

Nevertheless, the visitor will be keen to make the most of his big chance so is likely to fly out of the block and that could mean a stoppage for Burns in the latter part of the contest.

Skybet make Burns 11/4 to wear his man down to secure the stoppage and it’s 5/1 (Ladbrokes) for him to do so in the second half of the scrap.

With two victories and another podium finish in his last three races, it’s hardly surprising to see Sebastian Vettel installed as a 7/4 favourite by Stan James to land the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

The German is just 2/5 at William Hill to end up in the top three while Fernando Alonso in the Ferrari looks a banker at 4/7 (BetVictor) to get on the podium and Lewis Hamilton isn’t without appeal at 7/4 courtesy of Paddy Power to guide the Mercedes to another pole position.

Bet of the week: Sebastian Vettel to win the Italian GP – 7/4 (Stan James)

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