Harry’s Picks: Week 168 min read
The Premier League and Championship take a break this weekend with the focus on Euro 2020 qualification as we reach the conclusion and eagerly await the final group placings.
A Wales win will set up showdown
Wales travel to Azerbaijan on Saturday evening knowing only a win will keep their qualification hopes alive. They are currently in fourth place in Group E and four points behind second-place Hungary but thankfully with a game in hand.
A late Gareth Bale goal secured three points when the teams met in Cardiff following a narrow 2-1 win, but consecutive draws leave the Welsh needing six points from their final two games.
Their last match at home to Hungary promises to be a winner takes all clash providing they don’t fluff their lines in Baku.
The hosts have just a single point from their campaign, which ironically was earned at home against likely group winners Croatia, so Wales appreciate it will be tough. The incentive and ultimate prize is massive so there can be no excuse and a win here guarantees a big crowd in Cardiff against Hungary for the finale.
After this weekend’s big win, a jubilant @Redknapp was keen to get his picks over early this week…
✅ Coventry City
— BetVictor (@BetVictor) November 11, 2019
Defeat against Dutch will end Northern Irish hopes
The Netherlands have played some wonderful eye-catching football during their Group C qualifying and have destiny well and truly in their own hands after a tremendous 4-2 win in Germany gave them a crucial advantage in the tiebreaker between these giants of the game.
Two late goals secured victory in Hamburg with Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum’s injury-time strike possibly proving the goal that gives them the title.
Admittedly the Dutch left it late to beat Northern Ireland in the last match, with two goals in stoppage time securing a 3-1 success, and the return at Windsor Park will be no easy ride.
Northern Irish manager Michael O’Neill has left to join Stoke City but will oversee the hosts’ final two games and the chance of gatecrashing qualification.
With both The Netherlands and Germany in opposition, this was always a group of death for the them but they have competed well. Unfortunately, they can’t call upon the wealth of talent the bigger nations carry and there is only so far enthusiasm will take you on the international stage.
Northern Ireland will look to give O’Neill a great send-off in his last home match in charge but the men in Orange can spoil the party and move one step closer to topping the section with success.
Belgium’s big names can brush off Russia
Belgium have long been viewed as dark horses at recent major International championships but this may well be the last hope a golden generation have of finally lifting silverware.
They have been in dominating form during qualifying for Euro 2020 and have maximum points from eight games. They face their sternest test now, however, with a trip to close rivals Russia on Sunday afternoon.
The hosts are only three points adrift and will be looking for victory to take the Group I title down to the wire. They did lose 3-1 in Belgium, when midfield star Eden Hazard bagged a brace, and he will be crucial for the visitors.
With a wealth of stars playing across Europe, Belgium have one of the strongest squads in World football and will be desperate to showcase those talents during next summer. Three points will guarantee they finish top of the pile and I fully expect them to make it nine wins on the bounce.
Seasiders can coast to victory
Domestically League One and Two provide the entertainment. Blackpool are enjoying a new lease of life now that new management are finally in place off the field and the Tangerines find themselves just outside the League One playoff zone, riding high in eighth place.
They have been tough to beat with only three losses in the league and will be confident of extending that good form when lowly MK Dons make the long trip north this weekend.
The Seasiders enjoyed a comfortable 4-1 FA Cup win over fellow North West rivals Morecambe with in-form striker Armand Gnanduillet once more on the scoresheet. With eight already bagged in League One, he is certainly key to their promotion challenge and the Frenchman is always a handful for opposition defences.
The Dons arrive with new manager Russell Martin at the helm following the dismissal of Paul Tisdale. He didn’t enjoy a great start as MK were knocked out of the cup 1-0 at home by League Two Port Vale and with the club now in the bottom three, a relegation fight is most certainly on the cards.
His mood is unlikely to improve on the coast and with less than a goal a game record and twenty five flying past at the wrong end, Pool should have more fun and keep the pressure on more illustrious teams around them towards the summit.
Cov continue to shine at St Andrews
Coventry City may be playing all their home games at Birmingham City’s St Andrews stadium this season, but that has not stopped the Sky Blues and they are currently in sixth place in League One and also dreaming of promotion.
With only two defeats, they have been the surprise package and a 2-0 win at Colchester means more potential income from a good cup run too.
They entertain a Rochdale side that is hovering just below mid-table but still close to the relegation zone. They rely heavily on the goal output of veteran forward Ian Henderson but the squad lacks real depth and quality – and maintaining League One football would be viewed a success this term.
Only Tranmere have taken maximum points from Coventry at their adopted home and twin strike force Maxime Biamou and Amadou Bakayoko are entertaining the faithful this term. They have a good opportunity to keep the momentum building and a playoff berth will keep fans interested and hopefully see crowd numbers improve.
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