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Having not made it the World Cup finals in Russia, Italy were hoping the UEFA Nations League would offer them a route back to top echelon of European football, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Instead they head into this weekend’s match with Portugal, in Milan, two points adrift of the visitors having already played a game more.
As a result the Azzurri find themselves staring down the proverbial barrel and, if they are to win Group A3 and qualify for next summer’s finals, they have to first beat Fernando Santos’ men and then rely on Poland beating Portugal in Guimarães on Tuesday night.
Their form since missing out on Russia 2018 has been inconsistent and they only ended a five-match winless streak across all competitions with a last-gasp 0-1 win in Poland in their last match.
Portugal, by contrast, have been in good form and will be hoping for at least a point in Milan, which would be enough to see them qualify as group winners. Better still, they have achieved most of their recent good results without the services of Cristiano Ronaldo, proving once and for all that they are no one-man team. And a win would make it four wins on the bounce for the Portuguese.
TOP TIP! – Italy to win 2-1 – 41/5 9.20 +820 8.20 8.20 -0.12 / More than 2.5 goals – 11/8 2.38 +138 1.38 1.38 -0.72
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Interestingly, none of the last eight meetings between these two have been a draw but given that one will be enough for Portugal to qualify, then this is a distinct possibility.
For the Italians, Sandro Tonali, Stefano Sensi and Vincenzo Grifo have all been handed their first call-ups to the senior side, although they have lost Federico Bernadeschi through injury. For Portugal, Raphael Guerreiro, Jose Fonte, Andre Gomes and Joao Mario all return to the squad having missed out recently, but there is still no Ronaldo.
Italy start as favourites, albeit quite narrow favourites, despite not having beaten Portugal since 2008, and we agree with the bookies on this one. The Milan crowd are a demanding bunch and will be driving their team on, and despite their indifferent form the Italians will fancy this – especially against a Ronaldo-less Portugal.
With the stakes high, we expect an open game – with goals at both ends – and so there are worse bets out there than Bet365’s 11/8 2.38 +138 1.38 1.38 -0.72 for over 2.5 goals. On a similar basis we can see Italy edging it 2-1 41/5 9.20 +820 8.20 8.20 -0.12 with 188bet.
TOP TIP! – Albania to win 1-0 – 13/2 7.50 +650 6.50 6.50 -0.15 / Half-time/Full-time = Draw/Albania – 6/1 7.00 +600 6.00 6.00 -0.17
Scotland travel to Albania in search of a win to boost their chances of winning Group C1. Currently they sit three points behind Israel with a game in hand, but a poor performance in Haifa last time out hit them hard as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat against the group leaders. The Scots simply have to win in Shkoder.
Unfortunately, Alex McLeish’s men are in the midst of a poor run and this will be a difficult test, although they may be grateful to be spared a tetchy and demanding Hampden Park crowd. McLeish though must lift the spirits of his team, who have also recently been thumped by Portugal in a friendly.
Albania are no longer the pushovers they once were and despite losing 2-0 in both Scotland and Israel they did chalk up an impressive 1-0 home win over Israelis. And they will be doubly keen to avoid getting relegated to the D division, so we have a hunch that Albania, against the odds, could sneak this one by the odd goal.
The 2-1 on offer at 11/1 is tempting but we’re going with a narrow 1-0, which at 13/2 7.50 +650 6.50 6.50 -0.15 with 888sport looks great value. We’re also drawn to the half-time/full-time bet of draw/Albania 6/1 7.00 +600 6.00 6.00 -0.17 with 188bet.
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