England will have to improve upon their tired, tepid performance against Ireland in Dublin last weekend if they’re to overhaul Slovenia in Ljubljana on Sunday.
The hosts are unbeaten at home and still have an excellent chance of qualifying from Group E, particularly as they finish their campaign with matches against Lithuania and San Marino.
Yet Roy Hodgson’s charges go into the fixture as bet365’s understandably firm 5/6 favourites.
They’ve rattled in 15 goals in five qualifying matches, conceded just once (a Jordan Henderson own-goal) and sit top of the group with a maximum 15 points; despite enjoying home advantage, therefore, Slovenia open as William Hill’s 7/1 underdogs, while Skybet chalk 5/2 about the draw – an attractive insurance price should the expected away victory fail to materialise.
England, 12/1 with Stan James to lift the European Championship trophy in France next year, came from behind to beat Slovenia 3-1 when the sides met at Wembley last November, Wayne Rooney leading the comeback with a typically well-taken penalty.
The Manchester United man is 4/1 at BetVictor.com to open the scoring on Sunday, although Theo Walcott’s 11/2 price (Betway) in the same market is worthy of note.
Slovenia have lost all three of their competitive fixtures against England, but as they occupy second place in Group E, they’ll be mindful that a draw would represent a good day’s work.
Winner.com offer even money against the first half ending on level terms (as it did at Wembley last autumn), while Paddy Power post 6/4 against the teams disappearing for their half time energy drinks with the score goalless.
Punters who suspect that Slovenia will prove difficult to break down can get 4/1 (Ladbrokes) against both halves finishing on level terms and although bet365 mark 8/1 against it being goalless at full time, there’s been a greater level of support for Stan James’s even money for both teams to find the net.
Elsewhere, Skybet’s 7/2 for England to replicate their Wembley performance and emerge victorious following a drawn opening half cannot be ignored, while Betway’s 5/1 for England to win 1-0 has the distinction of being the correct score market’s most popular result.
Like Ireland, Scotland featured in a pretty uninspiring friendly match last weekend, as they edged out Qatar but punters will have gleaned little from the contest as they seek value ahead of the Scots crucial Group D clash with the Irish in Dublin.
Home advantage ensures the hosts are rated as favourites at 13/10 by bet365 while Stan James price the Scots at 12/5 to complete a double over the Irish, following last November’s 1-0 triumph at Hampden Park and it’s 9/4 with Paddy Power to finish all-square at the Aviva Stadium.
That would be a better result for Gordon Strachan’s third-placed side than it would for Martin O’Neill’s charges and it could be that Scotland will be happy to settle for a point if the teams are inseparable coming into the latter stages of the game.
The stalemate is subsequently the best match bet and as Shaun Maloney’s solitary strike separated the two in the reverse fixture, a low scoring encounter looks on the cards.
A case can be made for it finishing goalless then (13/2, BetVictor) and less specifically, combining a draw with a match tally of fewer than 2.5 goals comes in at a generous 11/4 via betway.
In Cardiff, Belgium are odds-on at 17/20 courtesy of Ladbrokes to get the better of Wales, BetVictor’s 4/1 underdogs, although Chris Coleman’s team have been pretty impressive in qualification thus far and will back themselves to grab a share of the spoils (13/5, bet365).
Finally, Skybet consider Romania to be 6/4 jollies as they visit Northern Ireland but the home side have perhaps been underestimated a touch and indeed BetVictor have already trimmed Michael O’Neill’s men to 9/4 to cause an upset.
Super League leaders Leeds are just 1/6 at betway to tighten their grip on top spot by seeing off neighbours Castleford in tomorrow’s (Friday) televised contest.
The Rhinos eased to a victory at rock-bottom Wakefield last time out while the Tigers faced an altogether tougher assignment at Hull KR and the hosts’ fresher legs can tell in this one, bet365 quoting Brian McDermott’s men at 10/11 to cover their opponents 16-point start in the handicaps.
Rory McIlroy heads the betting at 6/1 (BetVictor) ahead of next week’s US Open at Chambers Bay.
Paddy Power’s 8/1 chance Jordan Spieth follows the Northern Irishman in the betting but the value pick, particularly for those fond of an each-way flutter, is Winner.com’s 22/1 about Rickie Fowler landing his first major.
Bet of the week: Ireland and Scotland to draw – 9/4 (Paddy Power).
Odds supplied by ww.betrescue.com