The UEFA Nations League kicks off on Thursday the 6th of September 2018 with some enthralling matches to look forward to.
The UEFA Nations League is a brand new tournament aimed to eliminate friendlies, bringing more competitiveness into Europe’s international teams.
We will also see more competitiveness in terms of the fixtures played, with most heavyweights pitted in the same group. With 55 teams in the competition, we’ll be taking a look at some key fixtures to place your bets on this weekend.
Friday 7 September
Italy 15/20 | Draw 47/20 | Poland 17/4
Roberto Mancini faces his first competitive test as Italy boss, with the Azzurri coach opting to go with some youthful talent, with the bulk of his squad dominated by Serie A-based players. Funny enough, Poland coach, Jerzy Brzeczek, has called up eight players plying their trade in Italy’s top-flight, most notably Wojciech Szczesny, Piotr Zielinski and Arkadiusz Milik.
Following Italy’s disappointment to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, all eyes will be on how Mancini can motivate his charges, and against a team who did compete at the World Cup in Russia, this will be the perfect test. My money is on Italy to come out on top.
Turkey 12/10 | Draw 21/10 | Russia 24/10
After reaching the last eight on home soil in the FIFA World Cup, Russia kick-start their Nations League campaign with a trip to Turkey. The hosts have been in some fine form this year and remain unbeaten with two wins from their five games played, including a 1-1 draw the last time these two sides met.
Igor Akinfeev and Fyodor Smolov will miss out for Russia, with the goalkeeper out due to injury, while coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, has given Smolov more time to get accustomed to his new club, Lokomotiv. Not much separate these two sides with the draw tipped here at 21/10.
Saturday 8 September
Switzerland 7/10 | Draw 47/20 | Iceland 17/4
Switzerland face a stern test against an Icelandic team that can be full of surprises on their day. Despite speculation suggesting that Stephan Lichtsteiner will retire from the national team, the Swiss captain has been called up, alongside club teammate, Granit Xhaka, and Liverpool ace, Xherdan Shaqiri.
Iceland are known for famously knocking England out of the 2016 Euro’s and followed up that impressive feat with a 1-1 draw at the FIFA World Cup against Argentina. Not much separate these two teams, but with home advantage, I’m backing the Swiss to edge it at 7/10.
England 33/20 | Draw 2/11 | Spain 7/4
After what was a memorable World Cup for England, reaching the semi-finals in Russia, the Three Lions face a tough test against Luis Enrique’s Spanish team. Gareth Southgate raised a few eyebrows with his selection ahead of the Nations League, calling up the likes of Adam Lallana and James Tarkowski, while Joe Gomez and Luke Shaw returned to the fold after impressive starts to the season.
Jordi Alba and Koke were surprise omissions from Spain’s squad, although Enrique did recall Chelsea duo, Marcos Alonso and Alvaro Morata, who were both snubbed from the World Cup squad. David De Gea has suffered a dip in form when playing for his national team, while England’s defence might not be able to cope with Spain’s attack. Both Teams to Score seems the best bet here at 19/20.
Sunday 9 September
France 6/10 | Draw 11/4 | Netherlands 47/10
France host Netherlands in their first home match since their World Cup success in Russia, claiming their second Jules Rimet Trophy. Netherlands’ defence, headlined by Liverpool stalwart, Virgil van Dijk, will need to be at their very best to have any chance against the world champions.
Didier Deschamps has made just one change from the squad that won the World Cup, with Bordeaux goalkeeper, Benoit Costil, replacing Steve Madanda. The Dutch will have a point to prove, but against the champions, at their home turf, I give them little chance of getting something out from the match. Take the home win here.
Monday 10 September
Portugal 13/10 | Draw 2/1 | Italy 9/4
Portugal face a tough test against Italy, but what makes it an even more challenging task for the hosts is that they will get their Nations League campaign underway without their talismanic captain, Cristiano Ronaldo. The Juventus forward requested to be dropped, but Fernando Santos has still gone with a fantastic squad to complete the ‘Italian job’.
Italy will also be without one of their star players in Marco Verratti, who is still suffering with a thigh injury. Another close encounter is expected here, but I’m backing Mancini’s men to earn a point in Portugal.
Sweden 13/20 | Draw 26/10 | Turkey 17/4
Sweden host Turkey at the Friends Arena in Solna on Monday in the newly-formed UEFA Nations League. Fresh off a 2018 FIFA World Cup quarter-final appearance, Janne Andersson’s side will be looking to open their campaign on a winning note. The Blagult have lost just once in their last seven matches at home, winning four times. They beat European giants France and Italy and thrashed both Belarus and Luxembourg in the World Cup qualifiers.
In March this year, Andersson’s side conceded a 90-minute goal to lose 2-1 to Chile in a friendly and that followed with consecutive goalless draws against Denmark and Peru. Turkey are unbeaten in their five friendlies played this year with two wins, beating the Republic of Ireland and Iran. However, Mircea Lucescu’s side have failed to win in their last six games on their travels. I’m backing a victory for Sweden.
Tuesday 11 September
Iceland 52/10 | Draw 34/10 | Belgium 9/20
Erik Hamren’s early reign as Iceland manager continues with a tough test against Roberto Martinez’s star-studded Belgium on Tuesday. The former Sweden boss, who was technical director of Mamelodi Sundowns for less than seven months, replaced Heimir Hallgrimsson last month after Iceland failed to win a match at the 2018 World Cup.
After holding Argentina to a draw, they suffered back-to-back defeats against Nigeria and Croatia. Martinez led his side to the World Cup semi-finals – beating England in the third-place play-off. The Red Devils, who have moved to second in the latest FIFA rankings, have too much quality for Iceland.
Spain 7/20 | Draw 9/2 | Croatia 11/2
After facing England, Spain host 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia in the UEFA Nations League. La Roja are unbeaten in their last 11 matches on home soil with nine wins.
Croatia come off an incredible World Cup run with captain Luka Modric awarded the Golden Ball for the best player in the tournament. Prior to the World Cup, though, the Vatreni won just three of their last nine matches on their travels, losing five times. I’m backing Spain to Win and Both Teams to Score.
Bosnia & Herzegovina 33/20 | Draw 37/20 | Austria 39/20
Bosnia & Herzegovina and Austria square off on Tuesday with both teams boasting a relatively strong squad but have no achievements to match their excellent squads. Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko spearhead the ship for Bosnia, while Austria have David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic in their ranks.
The last time these sides played each other, it ended 1-1 in Vienna in March 2015. Goals can be expected here, but if you had to pick a result, back the draw here.
TREBLE TIPPED @ 5/1
Italy Win 15/20
Switzerland Win 7/10
England vs Spain BTTS 9/10