With no Premier League or Championship games due to the international break, all eyes domestically fall on the lower leagues this weekend.


Pompey to pick up more points

In League One, Portsmouth were heavily supported pre-season for the title and the signing of star striker John Marquis from Doncaster had backers excited. However, Pompey have disappointed and find themselves down in sixteenth position.

They host Gillingham on Saturday in a match they could have called off as three players have been selected for International duty. The club already have as many as three games in hand on other sides in the section and the reality is only goalkeeper Craig MacGillivray would have been playing against the Gills anyway.

The decision was therefore pretty straight forward and with successive league victories, manager Kenny Jacket was keen to keep the momentum building. Last weekend, Pompey were largely outplayed at Doncaster but clinically found a stoppage-time winner courtesy of summer signing Ellis Harrison, who joined from Bristol Rovers, to steal a crucial away win.

Worryingly, an out-of-form Marquis was replaced at half time but if he could rediscover his old magic, the club could still have done good business recruiting him.

The core of last seasons fairly successful squad remains and winning those games in hand would see Portsmouth challenging for a playoff berth.

Gillingham are currently one place above, but are yet to win away and are missing the goal threat of Tom Eaves who left for Hull City in the summer. Portsmouth need to close the gap on their promotion rivals and should continue their mini improvement here.


Posh full of firepower

Peterborough are the sections leading scorers and with plenty of attacking options, fans are almost guaranteed goals. They have found the net 26 times in League One this season although with 15 conceded its easy to see where their achilleas heel lies.

They are seventh and only five points off automatic promotion but last week they failed to hang on to a 2-0 and 3-2 lead before a last-gasp penalty had them settle for a point from a 3-3 thriller at Wycombe. They are looking for a fourth straight win at London Road and entertain Lincoln City here next.

The Imps have a new manager with Michael Appleton replacing the Cowley brothers who left for Huddersfield. Stepping into those shoes is tough after the considerable success they brought the club with two promotions. A recent 6-0 home defeat against Oxford had fans speculating the club may be heading backwards but despite a 2-1 loss at Blackpool in his first game in charge, Appleton enjoyed a great home debut with a 2-0 win over highly fancied Sunderland.

However, the Imps are very inconsistent and in reality, a season of consolidation would still be seen as a positive. They will do well to stop the Posh marksman and a seventh defeat of the league season looks likely.


Rovers not running out of gas yet

Bristol Rovers have quietly gone about business slightly under the radar this term and are unbeaten in their last five league outings, finding themselves handily placed in eighth position.

Forward Jonson Clarke Harris may have been a bit of a journeyman during his career but is most certainly in the form of his life with seven league goals to his name this season. He bagged the winner for the Gas in their last game as they beat Rotherham, and a visit from lowly MK Dons gives Rovers a good chance of sustaining their playoff assault.

The Dons are in the bottom half and an alarming 3-0 home loss to Burton last Saturday means a fourth straight loss in the league, leaving fans worried. A lack of goal output, resulting in just a solitary strike during this run, explains the lack of points and it’s difficult to envisage the club ending their baron run in the West Country.


Exeter aiming for top spot

EXETER, ENGLAND - JULY 11: General stadium view during the Pre Season Friendly match between Exeter City and Queens Park Rangers at St James' Park on July 11, 2013 in Exeter, England. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Exeter are enjoying a nice opening in League Two and are presently second in a tight section. They have only suffered defeat once from their twelve fixtures but face a stern test at St James Park as they entertain leaders Forest Green in arguably the match of the day in the bottom tier.

Their early success has been built on strong team spirit and hard work, and with attendances averaging almost 5,000 the locals in the City have got right behind their heroes.

Forest Green have been the surprise package with their easy on the eye attacking football producing several good results. Exciting left back Joseph Mills has five goals to his name currently and his ranging runs from deep have been well received by his team mates.

Rovers have built their success on strong defence and with only six goals conceded will challenge Exeter to break them down. Another big crowd will spur the hosts on and I believe we will see new leaders at the summit come Saturday tea time.


Seventh straight victory for Spain?

Spain are well placed to qualify for next summer’s Euro 2020 finals and are understandably one of the fancied nations to lift the trophy. With six consecutive victories in Group F, they have almost sealed that crown and will look to maintain this winning run away in Norway Saturday evening.

The hosts are still in the chase for a runners up spot and were only defeated 2-1 in Spain earlier in the campaign. They picked up a useful point in Sweden on their latest outing but the visit of the group leaders now represents a tough test.

With only three goals conceded, La Roja are solid defensively and renowned for technically gifted players. I expect them to make it a magnificent seven in the land of the fjords.


No issues for Italy

TAMPERE, FINLAND - SEPTEMBER 08: Jorginho of Italy scores the second goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between Finland and Italy at Tampere stadium (Ratina stadium) on September 8, 2019 in Tampere, Finland. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Italy are another country with maximum points from six games and they top Group J with a cosy six-point cushion. Although still double figures for outright glory, they have been impressive during qualifying and are now seen as lively dark horses next summer.

A nation who pride themselves on strong defence will be pleased with just three goals conceded but they have averaged three goals a game, and for a country who rarely find the net consistently, this will also be a huge positive. They have shared those goals around with five players scoring twice and there are hopes now they can be challengers once more against other powerful rivals.

Victory on Saturday would also virtually eliminate Greece from the race to qualify with the visitors on just five points after one success. Italy were convincing 3-0 winners in Athens back in June and should have little difficulty confirming that form.

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Odds are correct at the time of posting

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