Qualifying for Russia 2018 gets back underway in Europe this weekend with no less than 27 matches being played. I’ve taken a look through them to find the most interesting World Cup tips and analysis to give value bets.
In Group C second-placed Northern Ireland take on surprise strugglers Norway in Belfast, while a little to the south Group D leaders Republic of Ireland take on Wales in a clash steeped in rivalry. Meanwhile, in Cluj-Napoca Romania take on Denmark in an intriguing Group E clash.
World Cup tips and analysis: Northern Ireland v Norway
Northern Ireland take on Norway in an intriguing clash in Group C with Michael O’Neill’s men looking to cement their second-place spot in the group behind Germany. Norway on the other hand are already struggling for qualification having lost away in Azerbaijan and know if they are to make any kind of assault on the top two they need to start winning.
Three of the Northern Irish defence play together at club level, for West Bromwich Albion. Chris Brunt is having a good a season as I can remember and has combined well with centre-back Gareth McAuley to cause consistent danger to Premier League teams at set-pieces.
However, main striker Kyle Lafferty has not had much club action at all for Championship side Norwich City and the question has to be how match-ready he will be for this fixture. With Will Grigg out the other options for O’Neill are Conor Washington (QPR) and Josh Magennis (Charlton Athletic).
Norway have been poor in this group. The only win they picked up was over perennial whipping-boys San Marino and they managed to concede a goal in that game. They’ve not won away from home in seven games, having lost six of those and I don’t think they’re going to start doing so against Northern Ireland.
World Cup tips and analysis: Republic of Ireland v Wales
This promises to be a feisty encounter, with assistant boss Roy Keane already stirring the pot in the media beforehand talking about fairly robust methods to stop Wales’ Gareth Bale. Wales boss Chris Coleman has refused to be drawn on those comments but he knows that Wales’ chances are very much reliant on how well Bale has recovered from his recent ankle injury.
It will also be an emotional affair for winger James McClean. The West Bromwich Albion wideman will wear the number 5 shirt in memory of his friend Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who tragically died at the age of 27 last week. McClean has only been a bit part player for WBA but Keane has made it plain that the Ireland set up aren’t overly concerned with how much game time their players have got.
Ireland have got somewhat of an injury crisis on their hands. Defender Ciaran Clark has a knee injury, while Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter has a calf problem. Norwich midfielder Wes Hoolahan has been ruled out with a thigh strain, joining David McGoldrick, Paul McShane, Liam Kelly and Daryl Murphy as being unavailable. Robbie Brady is suspended havng picked up a second yellow card against Austria.
The key for Wales apart from Bale is Aaron Ramsey. If the Arsenal midfielder is fit and on his game he can boss the midfield for Wales, and with Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace) and Joe Allen (Stoke City) there is a good midfield behind the Real Madrid superstar. It won’t be an easy game but I think this is one Wales can win.
World Cup Tips: Romania v Denmark
Romania and Denmark currently both lie outside the top two in Group E and both know that this is the kind of game they must get a positive result from if they are to progress.
Romania have only won one of their last five games – a 5-0 away rout of Armenia – with their last home game being an embarrassing 3-0 pummeling at the hands of Poland. They face a Denmark side that have only taken one point from their first two away games, having also lost at the hands of Poland.
The Romania squad doesn’t quite shine as brightly as the names of yesteryear but there are some interesting names in it. Adrian Popa has done well since his move to English Championship side Reading while 20-year-old midfielder Razvan Marin could be one of the brighter future stars having picked up his first cap and goal for Romania in this campaign.
Christian Eriksen is undoubtedly the star of the Denmark side but there are some bright talents up front. Nicolai Jorgensen has scored 19 in 27 Eredivisie games since signing for Feyenoord in the summer while Andreas Cornelius is having a successful domestic campaign with FC Copenhagen, scoring nine goals.
The bookies have this game quite equal. I’ve not been impressed with what I’ve seen of this Romania side so I’m going to look at Denmark to win this one.
World Cup Tips and ProTipster
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