France v Netherlands- Thursday 19:45
The Dutch need a result here if they’re to avoid missing out on another major tournament as they currently trail both Sweden and France by three points. They’re certainly up against it as France are W12-D2-L1 at home since the start of last year, netting an average of 2.5 goals across these games. The Netherlands have won eight of their 12 away games since 2015 but all of those were against sides below them in our rankings (we have France 3rd in the world) and we think they’ll struggle here against one of the favourites to lift the World Cup next year. The Dutch have failed to score in five of their last six away defeats whilst seven of their last eight away defeats were by more than one goal so when they lose it tends to be a heavy defeat. France have an embarrassment of attacking riches and we think they’ll have plenty of joy against a Dutch side with only one clean sheet in 11 away games. We’re backing the hosts to cover the -1 handicap.
Portugal v Faroe Islands- Thursday 19:45
Switzerland and Portugal are well clear in Group B and all that remains is to determine who gets top spot. Portugal are three points off the pace but they should have no problems here against the Faroe Islands, who were beaten 2-0 in Switzerland and have lost 16 of their 21 away games since 2011. We have Portugal ranked 8th in the world and the Faroe Islands have lost and failed to score in their six trips to top-20 ranked sides since 2008, conceding an average of 3.7 goals across these. Portugal have netted 34 in their last eight at home and kept six clean sheets in these, whilst they’ve covered the -3 handicap in four of their last five at home to sides ranked outside the world’s top-100 since 2016 (we have the Faroe Islands 145th). We’re backing the Euro 2016 champions to cruise to an easy victory and stay in touch with Switzerland.
Bulgaria v Sweden- Thursday 19:45
With their two nearest rivals, France and the Netherlands, playing each other, this represents an excellent opportunity for the Swedes to secure their spot at the World Cup. Bulgaria have won all three of their home games, however, and so this won’t be an easy task. Indeed, the eastern Europeans have lost just four of their 17 home matches since 2012 and so Sweden look too short here at 1.85, particularly as their hosts have lost only two of their last 12 home games against top-30 ranked sides (we have Sweden ranked 20) going W3-D7-L2 across these. Sweden have won only five of their last 16 away games, drawing in Norway and Montenegro, both of whom are below Bulgaria in our rankings and we think the Bulgarians can pick up a draw here.