Football fans starved of action in Europe’s top leagues can look forward to nine crucial World Cup qualifiers on Sunday, June 11. The fabled Juventus backline will have to pick itself up after the disappointment of losing to Real Madrid in the Champions League final to represent Italy in their game against Liechtenstein. Real captain Sergio Ramos will be on international duty as Spain travel to Macedonia, but forward Gareth Bale will miss out through suspension as his Wales teammates visit Serbia. There are some intriguing matches in the offing and plenty of value for punters.
Macedonia v Spain
Macedonia surprised everyone by earning a 0-0 draw with Turkey in a recent friendly, a strong performance to follow on from a 3-0 win over Liechtenstein. Still, they are 10 points behind joint group leaders Spain and Italy and have no chance of qualifying for the World Cup, having lost four of five games so far. One of those was against Spain, who beat them 4-0 in November. Spain have won four and drawn one, against Italy, and should pulverize Macedonia here. They are the fourth favourites for the World Cup, and Macedonia are minnows. Spain -2 Asian handicap looks great at 1.80 with Bet365.
Italy v Liechtenstein
An even bigger mismatch is shaping up here as Italy, one of the world’s best teams, faces the tiny central European nation of Lichtenstein, ranked 172 in the world. Lichtenstein have lost all five games so far and are bottom of the group, having conceded 19 and scored just one. They do not have a hope in hell of scoring against an Italy boasting the likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. The Italians will be far too strong in every department and will expect to rack up an even greater score line than they did in November when they beat Lichtenstein 4-0. In front of their home fans, a five-goal margin is a minimum they would expect, so Italy -4 at 1.91 with Paddy Power looks interesting. They need goals if they want to win the group as they are below Spain on goal difference at present, and could give Liechtenstein a hiding.
Serbia v Wales
This should be a terrific game between two very strong and evenly matched teams. Wales have climbed up to 13th in the world rankings, 37 places above Serbia, after a string of great results in recent times, particularly reaching the semi-final at Euro 2016. They are unbeaten so far in World Cup qualifying, but they are just third in the group as they have won one and drawn four of their five games. Serbia are also unbeaten and top the group with three wins and two draws. It finished 1-1 when they met in Cardiff earlier this season, but Serbia are looking good to win this group and will fancy their chances on home soil. They may lack a superstar like Bale, but they are better all-round than Wales, and the gulf in class will be even greater in Bale’s absence. A Serbia win looks good here at 1.80 with William Hill.
Iceland v Croatia
Another fascinating tactical battle between two good sides looks set to unfold in Reykjavik as Iceland host Croatia. The Croats are top of the group with four wins and a draw, while Iceland – who knocked England out of Euro 2016 – are in second, three points behind. It finished 2-0 to Croatia when these two met in November, and Iceland will be desperate for revenge on their home soil, but that is unlikely due to the abundant quality within this Croatia squad. Luka Modric was arguably man of the match in the Champions League final, and he forms a formidable midfield alongside Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic. Croatia should control this game from the center of the park and create plenty of chances for Mario Mandzukic, who wowed the world with that bicycle kick for Juventus in the final. Iceland are plucky and a strong and cohesive unit, but Croatia’s superior quality should shine through once again here and the 2.10 on offer at Sportingbet on a Croatia win looks great.