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Thursday, 3 September 2015

Euro 2016 Qualifier Picks 2015 (September 3-5)

There are two Rounds of the European Championship Qualifiers which will be played over the next few days and I will split up the picks into two different posts.

You can read a recap of the last weekend Premier League football that I wrote here.

The next two Rounds of the Qualifiers are going to start seeing some nations booking their places in France for next summer, but will also begin to create a clearer picture as to those that are ready to join them after the October Qualifiers.

It is also an important time for teams like the Netherlands who have had a poor year to try and get into a position to work their way into the top two places in their Group.

England should have qualified after their second game next week, but the likes of Wales, Scotland, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be hoping to join them in France and will all know where they stand.

Wales and Northern Ireland look best placed for automatic places along with England, while Scotland and Republic of Ireland could be fighting it out for the one Play Off spot in their Group behind Germany and Poland. Scotland have two big fixtures this week and can't afford to begin by slipping up in Georgia, while the Republic of Ireland have their two 'easiest' games remaining in the next few days.

All five of the British and Irish nations have winnable away fixtures in the first round of games this week and all should be coming away with the three points to move a step closer to their goals. However, next week are some much tougher games for the likes of Scotland and Northern Ireland to deal with so they have to make hay this week and ensure they go in with three points earned.

Belgium v Bosnia & Herzegovina Pick: After earning two points from the first four games, Bosnia & Herzegovina looked to have suffered a hangover from their World Cup adventure which was going to cost them a place in the European Championships in 2016.

They have won their last couple of games in the Group to put themselves back in contention in the section, especially for the Play Off, but any chance of a top two finish would be eliminated if they fail to win in Belgium on Thursday.

I can't see Bosnia having enough to be the first team to beat Belgium since September 2010 and there looks to be too much firepower for them in this game. Belgium are still trying to make sure they stay ahead of the likes of Israel and Cyprus who have gathered behind them after a surprising 1-0 loss in Wales, but Belgium have won 2 of their 3 home games in the Group and have yet to concede a goal.

The pressure is on Bosnia to try and get a result in this one, but I think Belgium have the players to pick them off on the counter if they begin to chase the game. Belgium are the better team and I think they hang onto Wales at the top of their section and hold off Israel for another round of games in the second of the automatic promotion positions.

Turkey v Latvia Pick: There is little room for error from Turkey if they want to make their way into the European Championship, but they have three home games remaining and their destiny remains in their own hands. This is the 'easiest' of the remaining games, but Turkey host the Netherlands and Iceland as well as travelling to the Czech Republic and are currently just 2 points behind Holland in the Play Off spots.

They can't afford to drop points here and I think Turkey will prove too good for Latvia despite playing two high-scoring draws against them the last two times they have hosted them.

Any underestimation of Latvia could cost Turkey, but they should be focused knowing this side earned a 1-1 draw at the Czech Republic in this Group. That is two dropped points that could cost Czech Republic one of the top two positions in the Group and it would be fatal to Turkey's chances of qualifying if they didn't win the game.

Aside from that result in the Czech Republic, Latvia have lost a lot of their away games in recent years and they aren't the best travellers. They don't often lose heavily, but it does happen and Turkey will be looking for the goals that can give them the momentum to take into their next three huge qualifiers and I think they win this by a couple of goals.

Georgia v Scotland Pick: If there is any real ambition from Scotland to finish in the top two spots in the Group, they have to win this game in Georgia and stay with Germany and Poland who play one another on the same day. A failure to win here would mean Scotland having to beat Germany at home next week, and I can't imagine there would be too many rushing to back that happening.

Win and Scotland's home game against Poland next month is likely to be critical for them in trying to overturn their positions and earn an automatic spot in France next summer.

Georgia have been beaten by Germany, Poland and the Republic of Ireland so Scotland have to follow suit, but it won't be easy and the 1-0 home win over Georgia should tell all the players that. They have lost 5 of their last 6 home gams in the Qualifiers and isn't just the big nations that have won here as Finland did in the last set of Qualifiers for the World Cup and Ireland have won here in this Group.

Scotland were beaten 2-0 in their only previous visit here, but Gordon Strachan has got his side scoring goals on their travels and that might be key. It will be a close match, but Scotland winning at odds against is the call.

Germany v Poland PickI do think Germany have struggled under the expectation since winning the World Cup, while some of the players might have also felt they have achieved their biggest goal and perhaps rested on their laurels a little. That contributed to a poor start in their Euro 2016 Qualifying Group, but Germany looked to have turned things around and have to be favoured to earn one of the top two automatic qualifying spots.

However, that could all change if Germany fail to beat Poland on Friday ahead of a difficult test in Scotland next week, especially if the Scots have won in Georgia earlier in the day.

An easy home win over Gibraltar was expected, but Germany have been pushed by both Scotland and the Republic of Ireland in home Qualifiers last year, although those came soon after winning the World Cup. This time around the players should be more rested having a proper pre-season behind them and I expect Germany will turn on the style.

You don't want to dismiss Poland out of hand as the only unbeaten team in this Group, but they have negotiated a pretty nice set of fixtures and their hardest games are perhaps yet to come. The win at home over Germany was impressive, but away games in Germany and Scotland will determine whether Poland are able to earn an automatic spot in France for next summer.

The late equaliser from Shane Long in Poland's away game in Ireland might be the damaging two points lost, but this is a nation that will look to be hard to beat on Friday and try to agitate the crowd. If they can hold Germany at bay early, the home team will begin to feel the pressure, but I think the summer break aids the Germans compared with last summer and they can win this game by a couple of goals.

However, Germany might be more concerned about making sure they get the job done on Friday by any means necessary which means focus in defence and I will back them to win this with a clean sheet.

Gibraltar v Republic of Ireland PickYou never know how important goal difference is going to be for the Republic of Ireland and Scotland and both of those nations have to look at the away game at Gibraltar as the chance to improve on that front.

Both Poland and Germany have large leads on the goal difference front so you have to think the Republic of Ireland produce an attacking performance in Gibraltar to try and bridge that gap.

It won't be easy because Gibraltar will look to make life as difficult as possible for as long as possible, but both Germany and Poland have come here and scored seven goals and the Republic of Ireland did hit seven at home against them. There is a lot of hard working players in the Ireland squad though and they need a little more creativity now they are missing Aiden McGeady, but Martin O'Neill should have enough quality to secure a comfortable win ahead of the home game with Georgia.

These next two games are essential for Ireland to win well to give them some confidence to take into their last two games against Germany and Poland as the team looks to get back on level terms with the teams above them. I would expect Ireland are capable of scoring at least five goals here and there is every chance they get a couple more than that so they look a decent shout to cover the Asian Handicap.

San Marino v England PickSan Marino are going to try and make life difficult for England as they did at Wembley Stadium for large periods, but anything other than a comfortable away win would be a huge surprise.

There is enough pace in the England team to unlock San Marino and they could book their place at France 2016 with a win while Wayne Rooney will be looking for the two goals to surpass Bobby Charlton as the top English goalscorer.

I won't be surprised if the latter happens and England have found it easier to play their football in San Marino than at home in the past with their two highest goalscoring results coming in the away games. That might have something to do with the pressure of 80,000 people expecting England to score lots of goals and their three previous home wins have come by 6-0, 5-0 and 5-0 scores.

On the other hand, the two away wins came with 1-7 and 0-8 scores and England can play with a lot of freedom while some players can put a decent goalscoring mark on the record in a game like this. England were 0-5 up by half time when they visited San Marino in 2013 and I think they are going to record a routine win and they should be able to cover this Handicap mark.

Ukraine v Belarus PickThis is a big game for the Ukraine to try and stay on the coattails of both Spain and Slovakia above them and they can make a move in the Group knowing those two nations are playing one another. They can't take anything for granted against Belarus, especially with the expectation that the crowd will place on them, but Ukraine have to take their time and wear down their visitors.

It has been a poor section for Belarus who might have expected to challenge for a Play Off place at the very least, but their four points have come in away games in Macedonia and Luxembourg. However, Belarus did lose all 4 away games in the World Cup Qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup and Ukraine should have enough about them to win this game.

Ukraine might be looking ahead to what could be a vital Qualifier in Slovakia next week, but their focus has to be on the task at hand or that game might not mean as much as they would like it to. They have to avenge the home loss to Slovakia to have a chance to finish in the top two in the Group, but that will only matter if they can beat Belarus on Saturday.

It'll be far from easy for Ukraine, but Belarus might not have the fight that the home team have with qualification almost gone for them and I expect Ukraine to win this by a couple of goals and use that momentum to travel to Slovakia next week.

Spain v Slovakia PickUkraine have kept the pressure up on Spain in 2nd place in the Group and they might have pulled level with the Spaniards by the time this game kicks off on Saturday evening. With a visit to the Ukraine to come in the final two Qualifiers next month, Spain will know they need to win their remaining two home games to make sure they don't need to be involved in a Play Off for a place in France next summer.

I do think Spain will have enough quality to do that even if they are not as good as the teams that won the European Championship twice and the World Cup from 2008 to 2012. They have won their 3 home games in the Group and Spain will likely see Slovakia relying on the counter attack in this game so it will be about the home team breaking them down.

Slovakia may also be playing the long game knowing they have a 'bigger' game with the Ukraine just days later, a game that could be the key to automatic qualification. Avoiding defeat in one of their next two games will give Slovakia a real edge to finish in the top two knowing Ukraine and Spain will be playing one another next month and that might be the mindset as they visit Spain.

If Spain get in front, Slovakia could start thinking about the next game at home against Ukraine and I think that could allow the Spanish team to earn revenge for their loss in Zilina. That distraction may also allow Spain to win this one by a couple of goals and clear the handicap.

MY PICKS: Belgium - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Turkey - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Scotland @ 2.05 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Germany - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Republic of Ireland - 4.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
England - 5.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.14 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ukraine - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Spain - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)

August Update16-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)

Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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