England v Italy
Although outclassed by Argentina in a 3-0 loss at the start of the month, Italy have begun their Nations League campaign in solid fashion, taking a point from Germany before a win over Hungary. Whereas the Azzurri top the standings, England’s surprise loss to Hungary leaves them propping up the group, but they’ll certainly be motivated to exact a measure of revenge following defeat on penalties to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
England have only suffered the single defeat in 24 matches now (W17-D6-L1), and it would be a little surprising if Italy could do enough to take maximum points here. The visitors have won inside 90 minutes in just five of 16 matches since the knockout rounds of Euro 2020 (W5-D8-L3). The likes of Austria, Bulgaria and Northern Ireland earned draws, while North Macedonia defeated them in a World Cup play-off, so it’s difficult to trust Roberto Mancini’s men to pick up a good result here.
When facing elite sides Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain, the Three Lions hold an impressive W3-D3-L1 record since October 2018 over 90 minutes, including two wins from three unbeaten clashes on home turf. However, clean sheets were hard to come by, with Gareth Southgate’s men only mustering a single clean sheet across the seven games, as both teams scored in five of them.
Both teams have also scored in a large number of Italy’s recent clashes with top sides as well. Going back to October 2020, seven of eight encounters with either Argentina, Belgium, England, Germany, Netherlands or Spain have gone that way, with Italy an even W2-D4-L2 over 90 minutes across these fixtures.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
Wales v Belgium
Spectators have been rewarded with plenty of goals across Belgium’s opening Nations league games, with the Red Devils suffering a 4-1 defeat to the Netherlands, before a commanding 6-1 win over Poland. Roberto Martinez’s side have long been capable of racking up big scorelines and last failed to score nearly four years ago, when drawing a blank against eventual World Cup winners France in the semi-finals.
However, although plenty of forward talent remains, the defence isn’t so fearsome anymore with Vincent Kompany and Thomas Vermaelen retired, while Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen are into their mid-thirties. Subsequently, Belgium have been involved in a number of high-scoring affairs, with 10 of their past 12 outings featuring a minimum of three goals. In fact, their last eight matches have averaged 4.4 goals per games, as both teams scored in all but one of them, with the exception when Burkina Faso failed to register on the scoreboard.
This spell included a score-draw with Wales themselves in a World Cup qualifier, and the Dragons have enjoyed plenty of success in this fixture during recent times. They’re W2-D3-L1 against Belgium since 2013, including their quarter-final victory in Euro 2016, as both teams have scored in the three most recent clashes.
Both teams have also scored in six of Wales’ seven outings since November 2021, with Robert Page’s men finding the net on every occasion. The hosts should also be boosted with Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey expected to return to the starting line-up, missing the last game against the Netherlands entirely, alongside fellow regulars Ethan Ampadu, Neco Williams and Joe Allen.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
Republic of Ireland v Scotland
Ireland went into the international break with just one defeat from 12 matches, coming on the road against Portugal, even taking draws at home to Belgium and Portugal. However, on closer inspection, this run of results wasn’t quite so impressive with a number of kind fixtures, including clashes with Qatar and Azerbaijan twice each, as well as Andorra, Luxembourg and Lithuania.
Stephen Kenny’s side have made a horrendous start to their Nations League campaign with back-to-back 1-0 defeats to Armenia and Ukraine, and the lack of output remains the primary concern. Ignoring clashes with minnows Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania and Luxembourg, all of whom are outside the top 90 in the World according FIFA’s rankings, Ireland have scored just seven goals in 17 games and failed to register on the board at all in 12 of them.
Scotland may have endured World Cup play-off heartache at the start of the month as they suffered defeat against Ukraine, but a comfortable 2-0 victory over Armenia leaves them with a W7-D2-L1 record across their past 10 outings. Steve Clarke’s side have now opened the scoring in six of their past seven matches, so they should be able to get their noses in front before soaking up any limited Irish attacks.
The visitors have also led at half time in eight of their past 10 victories, while 10 of their last 11 wins have been accompanied by clean sheets as six finished 1-0 and a further three ended 2-0. Those would all appear likely outcomes here, but with no first-half goals in five of Ireland’s past six matches, the win to nil holds greater appeal than for Scotland to strike early.
SCOTLAND TO WIN TO NIL
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