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Ali-Preview: International Break

With the transfer window shutting on Tuesday night attention turns back to the pitch and international matters, with games taking place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There are some interesting (and some less interesting) match ups but with so long having passed since the last round of internationals all the players will be wanting to confirm qualification for next year's Euros as quickly as possible so they can focus on domestic matters.

Netherlands vs. Iceland
Belgium vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina
Cyprus vs. Wales 

The Netherlands have not had a good time in their group and are currently outsiders to qualify automatically for the finals. Their visitors Iceland have been in stunning form, losing only to 2nd place Czech Republic and beating the Dutch right back at the start of the campaign. They will be dangerous again and could look to cause an upset in Amsterdam. Netherlands have been free scoring at home, averaging over 3 goals a game, but the Icelanders will be confident they can avoid that with a record of only 0.67 goals per game conceded away.

Belgium are also looking to recover from a slow start as they find themselves behind Wales (I know right?!) in Group B. Bosnia-Herzegovina have flatlined somewhat after their impressive run to last year's World Cup and lie lower down the group, but Belgium will know they carry a threat in attack and resilience in defence. Eden Hazard is yet to hit form this season so Belgium will be calling on strikers Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku to dispatch the bullets provided by Manchester City new-boy Kevin de Bruyne. 

Wales have made a stunning start to the group and are a point ahead of the Belgian Red Devils having already played them twice. A tough away trip to Cyprus will be a real test of the side's creative abilities and toughness, both mental and physical, as they attempt to break down a stubborn defence and avoid leaving the Mediterranean with too many injuries before their clash with Israel next Friday. If they can take 6 points from those two games they will be in with an extremely good chance of going straight to France next year.

Wales and Belgium both to win, Netherlands and Iceland to draw
All 3 to be under 2.5 goals per game
Wales vs. Cyprus and Belgium vs. Bosnia, BTTS No
Netherlands and Iceland, BTTS Yes
Result Predictions: Cyprus 0-2 Wales; Belgium 1-0 Bosnia; Netherlands 1-1 Iceland
Scorers: Bale (Wales); Lukaku (Belgium); Gylfi Sigurdsson (Iceland); Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Netherlands)

Germany vs. Poland
Georgia vs. Scotland
Gibraltar vs. Republic of Ireland
Faroe Islands vs. Northern Ireland

The Friday matches see some predictable results on the cards as both parts of Ireland have easy matches, albeit away. Whilst rugby scores can't be anticipated due to the difficulty of away travel you can count the Republic beating Gibraltar and Northern Ireland beating the Faroe Islands as bankers. Keep an eye on Robbie Keane and Aiden McGeady for the Republic, whilst Kyle Laffery has scored 5 so far in qualification for Northern Ireland.

Scotland also face a less-than-challenging clash away in Georgia and still harbour hopes of making the finals next summer. Only 3 points behind group-topping Poland, their chances of qualification will depend on the result of the main match on Friday night, Germany vs. Poland. If the Germans can overturn their shock defeat to the Poles from earlier in the group then Scotland could be in the driving seat for second if they can beat the Georgians. Shaun Maloney has been in good form for the Scots and is mid-season in the MLS at the moment so could be a good option. Germany will expect to beat the Poles and I fancy Thomas Mueller to carry on his rich recent vein of form.

Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Germany all to win
Over 2.5 goals in game: Republic, Northern Ireland, Germany
Under 2.5 goals in game: Scotland
BTTS Yes: Germany
BTTS No: Republic, Northern Ireland, Scotland
Result Predictions: Gibralter 0-4 ROI; Faroe Islands 0-3 Northern Ireland; Georgia 0-1 Scotland; Germany 2-1 Poland

San Marino vs. England
Russia vs. Sweden

England, the last of the home nations to play this weekend, travel to San Marino in a game that nobody is billing as anything. I don't think many people have even noticed it is happening. Even Jonjo Shelvey is in the squad again, which means it is a nothing game. Either way this will be a comfortable win for England with a great chance for Wayne Rooney to break the England scoring record of Sir Bobby Charlton. If he can stay awake long enough. 6-0 sound about right? Pick a number between 4 and 10 and go for it!

In more interesting news, Russia and Sweden face off near the summit of Group G with both teams hoping to narrow the 4 point gap to surprise leaders Austria. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the top scorer for the visitors, whilst home hopes are pinned on Artem Dzyuba who tops their scoring charts with 2 ahead of Aleksandr Kokorin. Neither side is averaging many goals, either home or away, with the Russians averaging just 1.67 goals per game at home, conceding an average of 0.67 (the same average as the amount Sweden concede away). This doesn't look like being high scoring as both sides look to get their campaigns into life at the last minute, with qualification on the line.

Over 2.5 goals in game: England
Under 2.5 goals in game: Russia
BTTS No: England
BTTS Yes: Russia
Score predictions: San Marino 0-6 England; Russia 1-1 Sweden

Enjoy a Premier-League-less weekend, or find your local lower league team and go along and watch! Either way, make sure you are checking out @SportTipster_1 for all the best tips on the net, and of course me @AliHaggis 

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