Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Prediction: Scotland vs Slovakia

Tom Dunstan in Free Soccer Predictions, World Cup 4 Oct 2017

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Verdict: Both teams to score – Yes

Best Odds: 19/20

Bookmaker: Bet365

Things have really started to reach a boiling point in Group F. With only a point separating second-placed Slovakia and fourth-placed Scotland, a guaranteed sell out Hampden crowd will know the importance of this game if Scotland still wants to book their place in Russia next summer.

Scotland

For Scotland, it’s really been a tale of two halves when it comes to their qualifying campaign. After getting off to a slow start in group F, Gordon Strachan and his men have done an admirable job of staying in the fight. But, have the Tartan Army left it too late? As any Scot will know by now, if they’re going to make their first appearance at a major tournament since 1998, then they are realistically going to have to pick up maximum points from their two final games.

On a less ominous note, Strachan’s side have looked revitalised since the turn of the year, unbeaten in their last four qualifying matches, Scotland have picked up an impressive 10 points out of an available 12, they’re going to need that fighting spirit if they want to secure the fairytale ending.

With three goals already in qualifying, including two free-kicks against England, Scotland and Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths will no doubt have a huge part to play. Coming off the back of two goals in his previous three games for his club, Griffiths will be Scotland’s man to watch, especially with some key players missing out due to injury.

Team News

Despite only briefly training with the squad, Leigh Griffith looks to have recovered from his knock and appears to be the man who will lead the line for Scotland.

But, Scotland will be without three key players, including their captain Scott Brown. Along with Brown, his midfield compatriot Stuart Armstrong and Newcastle winger Matt Ritchie will also be on the sidelines.

Slovakia

As for Slovakia, they do currently hold that lucrative second place spot and with a home match against Malta coming up on Sunday evening, Slovakia finds themselves in the box-seat for that second qualifying spot. Coming off the back of their first defeat at the hands of England last month, Kozak and his men will know that even a point will most probably be enough.

It must be noted that in their previous qualifying games, Slovakia have shown a willingness to try and play some eye-catching football and the likes of Weiss and Hamsik have shown some real speed on the counter-attack. Although Slovakia have shown some real adventure in the final third, they have only managed to keep one clean sheet in the last six outings, Scotland and Leigh Griffiths, in particular, will be hoping to capitalise on that.

Team News

There are no new injury concerns for Slovakia and look set to name the same 4-2-3-1 formation that narrowly lost out to England in September. Slovakia’s captain and key man Marek Hamsik is likely to play as a number 10, just behind Adam Nemec.

Key Factors to Consider

  • The last time the two sides met Slovakia won 3-0
  • Both teams are averaging 1.75 goals per game
  • Scotland have won three and drawn one of their last four qualifying fixtures
  • Slovakia have earned nine points from the last available twelve in this group
  • Slovakia have conceded in every game away from home during qualifying

Conclusion

With both teams fully aware of how important this game is in keeping their World Cup dreams alive, it looks like an encounter that could be too close to call. With the raw of Hampden behind them and Slovakia with the class of Hamsik in their ranks, a scoring draw looks like the most logical option. Slovakia have a reputation for conceding goals away from home while Scotland have scored five in their last three home games.

Verdict: Both teams to score – Yes

Best Odds: 19/20

Bookmaker: Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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