Three picks from Monday's helping of World Cup Qualifiers.
Wales v Republic of Ireland - Monday 19:45
A huge clash in Group D sees Wales and the Republic of Ireland battle it out for what is likely to be the runners-up spot as group leaders Serbia are hosting Georgia, who are languishing towards the foot of the table. If they’re to qualify, Wales will have to do so without their talisman Gareth Bale, scorer of four of their seven home goals so far. Republic of Ireland are unbeaten on their travels so far, including a win in Austria, and their record when travelling to top-50 ranked teams is W1-D5-L5 since 2013, including draws in friendlies against Germany and England. Given the absence of Bale and the magnitude of this clash, there’s a good chance this’ll be a low-scoring encounter and that’ll certainly bring the draw into play.
Ukraine v Croatia - Monday 19:45
Ukraine have picked up 10 points from their four home games to date as their record on their own turf is now an impressive W17-D4-L3 since 2013. However, those were mostly against relatively weak sides and also still includes a recent defeat here against minnows Malta as they are clearly a side in decline. We have Croatia above Ukraine in our rankings (Ukraine are 40th and Croatia 26th) and Ukraine have won only won of their last nine against teams above them while losing six times, each time to nil. Most of those were on the road and they are stronger at home but it highlights their scoring troubles. Those matches have a strong ‘unders’ trend and that’s generally the case with Ukraine at home as 13 of their 17 home games since 2014 have had fewer than three goals and nine saw fewer than two. Excluding a trip to Kosova and Croatia have scored just twice in their last six away qualifiers with all six having fewer than three matches and four fewer than two.
Israel v Spain - Monday 19:45
Israel have in fact been much better on the road than they have at home in this qualification campaign as their only win on home soil has come over lowly Liechtenstein. Indeed, they’ve now lost seven of their last 11 at home and they’re unlikely to improve upon that record here as they host Julen Lopetegui’s impressive Spanish side. After a 1-1 draw in Italy they’ve won their last three road games by an aggregate of 12-1 and they should have too much for this Israel side, whom they thumped 4-1 in Spain. They’ve won five of six unbeaten trips to sides ranked outside the world’s top 30 since 2015 (we have Israel ranked 73rd) while conceding just one goal. We’re backing Spain to cover the -1 handicap, as they have done in four of their last five away wins, whilst four of Israel’s last seven home defeats were by more than one goal.