England remain unbeaten after the opening four games of their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup.
But draws in Poland and, perhaps more surprisingly, at home to Ukraine mean that Roy Hodgson’s men don’t actually occupy top spot in Group H, although they remain odds-on favourites at 4/11 via bet365 to ultimately emerge as pool winners.
The Three Lions should move a step closer to that goal tomorrow evening as they face San Marino and although there are no foregone conclusions in football, it would arguably be the biggest upset in sporting history if England were to fail to defeat a team rated rock bottom in 207th, alongside Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands, in FIFA’s official rankings.
Accordingly then, Hodgson’s charges are just 1/100 at Stan James to collect maximum points at the expense of a country with a population of around 32,000 – around a sixth of that of Northampton – while the hosts are 80/1 (BetVictor) to pick up their first-ever competitive victory and it’s 22/1 courtesy of Skybet to finish all-square.
Realistically for punters, it’s a question of how many England will score and Betfred quote them at 7/1 to manage a repeat of the 5-0 triumph they registered against San Marino at Wembley back in October.
A 5/1 shot with Stan James is a 4-0 success and for punters expecting stubborn resistance from the inevitably defensively-minded minnows, BetVictor chalk the visitors up at 10/1 to notch twice without reply.
Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck grabbed a brace apiece when the sides met last and BetVictor mark 2/1 and 11/4 respectively against the Manchester United duo striking at least twice on this occasion.
Rooney is just 11/5 (bet365) to break the deadlock in the Stadio Olimpico, where bet365 price a Welbeck opener at 3/1 but it could be worth taking a chance on the pace of Theo Walcott eventually unlocking the San Marino rearguard and the Arsenal man is a 5/1 shot via Ladbrokes to score first.
Meanwhile, it took until the 34th minute for England to break down the same opponents in the reverse fixture and a penalty was required on that occasion, so a case can be made for William Hill’s 14/5 marked against the opener arriving after the 31-minute mark in this one.
At Hampden Park, Scotland are odds-on at 5/6 with Coral to gain revenge for the 2-1 defeat suffer at the hands of Wales back in October while Stan James post 4/1 against Chris Coleman’s side completing a Group A double over the Scots and bet365 offer 5/2 about an inconclusive affair.
The contest is Gordon Strachan’s first competitive outing as Scotland boss and that in part explains why the hosts are such emphatic favourites but any team with Gareth Bale in their ranks has to be considered a major threat and the Welsh have perhaps been underestimated a touch ahead of this one.
Stan James quote them at an enticing 5/2 in the ‘Draw No Bet’ market, they’re given a goal start in Skybet’s handicaps at even money and for more ambitious punters, BetVictor mark 18/1 against Coleman’s troops beating Scotland 2-1 for the second time in the qualifying campaign.
Bale meanwhile, who bagged a double in that Cardiff renewal, will undoubtedly be well backed at 6/1 (bet365) to put the visitors 1-0 in front while Paddy Power price the in-form Spurs man at 9/5 to get on the scoresheet at any stage.
Despite enjoying home advantage, Northern Ireland are BetVictor’s 7/1 outsiders as they prepare to face Group F leaders Russia. Michael O’Neill’s side are 14/5 courtesy of Stan James to record a fourth stalemate in five qualifiers and they’re given a one-goal cushion thanks to Skybet in the handicaps, at odds of 6/4.
Finally, in Stockholm, Republic of Ireland are also 7/1 shots with BetVictor as they take on Sweden, Coral’s 8/15 favourites. Bet365 rate the crucial Group C showdown at 10/3 to end in a draw.
Red Bull blamed tyre issues for their performance in the Australian Grand Prix last Sunday but insisted they were pleased with Sebastian Vettel’s third place despite the fact that the German started on pole position.
The fact that they can pinpoint the problem is perhaps ominous for their rivals and indeed Vettel is probably a worthy favourite at 2/1 via Stan James to clinch victory in this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
Melbourne victor Kimi Raikkonen meanwhile, is 10/11 at BetVictor to secure a podium finish at the Sepang International Circuit.
Bet of the week: First goal in San Marino v England after 31st minute – 14/5 (William Hill)
Odds supplied by www.betrescue.com