Denmark v Rep of Ireland – Saturday 19:45, Sky Sports
Denmark went on a run of four wins from five unbeaten matches to finish runners-up to Poland in Group E. Martin O’Neill’s Irish side pinched group D’s runner-up spot with a dogged 1-0 victory in Wales, but they’ve got to this stage playing a negative brand of football as no side in these play-offs scored fewer in the group stages.
Both teams will be wary of a damaging first leg result so it’s little surprise to see under 2.5 goals as short as 1.57. In fact, in UEFA World Cup and Euro play-offs since 2009, 11 of the 16 first leg encounters have had fewer than three strikes as seven have seen no more than one. Combine this with Ireland’s defensive nature under O’Neill, where eight of their 10 qualifying games saw fewer than three strikes, and Under 2.5 Goals looks banker material.
Ireland went through qualification unbeaten on the road and stretching back to the start of Euro 2016 qualifiers they’ve lost just three of 12 competitive away matches, one of which was against hosts France in the Euros. The management have them well-organised as eight of these were level at the break including four of five in these qualifiers. Denmark won three of their five home qualifiers which included a 4-0 thumping of Poland, but the other two were against minnows Kazakhstan and Armenia as they drew with Romania, while Montenegro left with all three points. In fact, they’ve won just four of their last 10 home matches overall and against a stubborn Irish side we’re reluctant to back the hosts at odds-on.
Preference therefore is for the half-time draw and if the Danes are to break the men in green down, the most likely source is Christian Eriksen. The Spurs midfielder has been in superb form for club and country this season and has struck eight in his last eight for the latter. He’s inspired his nation on their recent run of form, bagging the only goal in their all-important qualifier with Montenegro recently and looks a decent bet to break the deadlock.