Three Lions heavy favourites to move closer to Brazil

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Depending on the result in Kharkiv, where Ukraine tackle Poland, a victory for England against Montenegro tomorrow (Friday) night could virtually, though not quite mathematically, guarantee that Roy Hodgson’s men will participate in the next year’s World Cup finals.

Any outcome other than a Ukraine success will be great news for the Three Lions, who are 2/5 with Stan James to keep up their side of the bargain by picking up maximum points at Wembley and a first defeat of the qualifying campaign is an 8/1 shot courtesy of BetVictor.

William Hill post 7/2 against a stalemate, which will certainly lure some punters given that England have shared the spoils in half of their games so far, including the reverse fixture against Montenegro and a repeat of the 1-1 scoreline from that Podgorica clash is on offer at 8/1 via Skybet.

On home soil, however, Hodgson’s charges should get the job done, especially as the England boss has a few more options open to him in terms of selection than he had in Kiev a month ago and as the Three Lions have conceded just three goals in eight Group H outings, betway’s 5/4 for them to prevail ‘to nil’ isn’t without appeal.

More specifically, BetVictor chalk England up at 6/1 to grab the only goal, those expecting a one-goal margin of victory for the hosts (13/5, bet365) can tackle William Hill’s 11/2 about Hodgson’s troops firing the only goal and it’s 10/3 courtesy of Stan James for a home success secured on the back of an even first period.

In attack, England can call on Wayne Rooney, who struck when the pair last met but missed out on the last couple of Three Lions assignments with a head injury. The United frontman, perhaps not surprisingly, is a strong favourite at 7/2 (bet365) to break the deadlock but at a chunkier 5/1 with Ladbrokes, Daniel Sturridge might represent better value.

The Liverpool striker is the Premier League’s top scorer with six in seven and will be relishing the opportunity to transfer that form to the international arena.

In Group A, Wales are looking to avoid the wooden spoon and Chris Coleman’s side will haul themselves off the foot of the table if they get the better of Macedonia in Cardiff.

The Welsh were beaten by the same opponents in Skopje back in September but are 13/10 via BetVictor to gain revenge this time around while Macedonia, just a place and a point above the hosts in the standings, are Paddy Power’s 23/10 underdogs.

Stan James mark identical odds against the stalemate but Coleman’s team, available at 3/5 in’s ‘Draw No Bet’ market, were perhaps a touch unfortunate to lose to Macedonia last month and they look the best bet ahead of this one.

BetVictor offer 10/1 about a 2-1 Wales triumph, bet365 make the home side 11/4 to be in front at the end of each half and it’s 14/5 courtesy of Ladbrokes for them to shade it by a one-goal margin.

In-form Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey finally, is 17/2 (bet365) to fire the opener and BetVictor rate him at 10/3 to get on the scoresheet at any time.

Over in Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland are William Hill’s 11/5 outsiders and are 29/20 at BetVictor to be the first side to lose to the hosts in Group F. The Azerbaijanis though, have divided the points in five of their eight games and the draw-specialists, at 23/10 via Stan James, look set to play out another stalemate in Baku, where Ladbrokes price a 1-1 scoreline at 6/1.

Back-to-back defeats to Sweden and Austria have ended Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for Brazil 2014 and they’re 1/6 (Stan James) to suffer another loss in Germany, who will book their place in next year’s tournament with a victory. It’s hard to see past the talented Germans who are worth considering at 6/5 in Paddy Power’s handicaps when kicking-off two goals behind the Irish.

Another Grand Prix, another victory for Sebastian Vettel as the German prevailed in Korea and the Red Bull man is just 4/7 with Stan James to rack up another success in Japan this weekend.

It’s a sign of Vettel’s dominance that bet365’s 7/1 shot Lewis Hamilton is considered his nearest challenger at Suzuka, where the Brit is 3/1 in Ladbrokes’s betting without the runaway Championship leader.

After they went so well in Korea however, the Lotus team could be worth following again, especially as Romain Grosjean is as high as 11/4 via BetVictor to again finish on the podium.

Finally, in the Heineken Cup this weekend, Northampton Saints look decent value at 7/5 courtesy of Paddy Power as they head to Castres.

Jim Mallinder’s have started the season well domestically and can transfer that to Europe so they’re also decent value in BetVictor’s handicaps, where they’re three points better off at 10/11.

Bet of the week: Daniel Sturridge to score first – 5/1 (Ladbrokes).

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