England v San Marino & Belgium v Wales - Who Do The Home Nations Play This Week?

It is a packed week of action for the home nations
11:20, 23 Mar 2021

The international break, derided by many, is here once again but the home nations have a whole stack of games to look forward to, kicking off with some vital World Cup qualifiers as the road to Qatar begins. Although it is a packed international schedule, this is how the first round of games is set to pan out. 

England v San Marino

Where: Wembley Stadium, London

When: Thursday, March 25

Kick-off time: 7.45pm

TV: ITV1

A chance for England to revisit those memories of Davide Gualtieri’s goal which put San Marino 1-0 up in just 8.3 seconds back in 1993, but also a chance for the attacking talent England possess to flex their muscle. Ollie Watkins is in the squad for the first time, while Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Marcus Rashford will all be looking to nail down a starting place with Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho both out. 

England should get off to a flyer here and keep a clean sheet which will once again spark the goalkeeper debate as to who should be number one, with Jordan Pickford out of the squad through injury. San Marino’s record in World Cup qualifiers is currently lost 64, drawn two, won zero. Anything other than a heavy England win would be disastrous.

Sportsman stat: Across their six meetings to date, England are 37-1 up overall, averaging more than six goals per game against the minnows.

Betfred odds: England are 3/5 to win by seven goals or more. 

 

Scotland v Austria

CLARKE HOPES TO LEAD SCOTLAND TO THE WORLD CUP
CLARKE HOPES TO LEAD SCOTLAND TO THE WORLD CUP

Where: Hampden Park, Glasgow

When: Thursday, March 25

Kick-off time: 7.45pm

TV: Sky Sports Main Event

Scotland will fancy their chances of getting off to a winning start although they will now face a strong Austrian side, including all their Bundesliga-based players, after Germany dropped Great Britain from its quarantine list. That means the likes of David Alaba and Marcel Sabitzer will be lining up against Steve Clarke’s men who are hoping to qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1998.

Ryan Jack is now out of the Scotland squad but Clarke does now have Southampton striker Che Adams at his disposal, who decided it was the ‘right time’ to play for Scotland this week, while Kevin Nisbet will be targeting his first cap.  

Sportsman Stat: Four of Scotland's last six matches have ended in 1-0 scorelines

Betfred odds: Scotland are 23/10 to beat Austria

 

Belgium v Wales

GARETH BALE WILL BE HOPING TO PROVIDE MORE WELSH MAGIC
GARETH BALE WILL BE HOPING TO PROVIDE MORE WELSH MAGIC

Where: Den Dreef, Leuven

When: Wednesday, March 24

Kick-off time: 7.45pm

TV: Sky Sports Main Event

Wales face a tough test against the side currently ranked at number one in the FIFA world rankings, but Ryan Giggs and his players will see this as a massive opportunity to put a marker down in their qualifying group. They will be without influential midfielder Aaron Ramsey due to injury while Will Vaulks omission from the squad does seem a strange one. Spurs duo Joe Rodon and Gareth Bale are both likely to start as Wales look to repeat what they did in the quarter-final of Euro 2016 when they shocked Belgium 3-1 to make the last four.

Belgium could be out for revenge from that game five years ago however, and with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Dries Mertens all in their squad, this could be a long night for Wales. 

Sportsman Stat: Wales are unbeaten in their last four competitive meetings with Belgium (W2 D2)

Betfred odds: Wales are 10/1 to beat Belgium.

 

Italy v Northern Ireland

CAN NORTHERN IRELAND PULL OFF A SHOCK?
CAN NORTHERN IRELAND PULL OFF A SHOCK?

Where: Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma

When: Thursday, March 25

Kick-off time: 7.45pm

TV: Sky Sports Football

This Italy side are looking for redemption after failing to qualify for the last World Cup, their first absence since 1954, after losing to Sweden in a play-off game. Now with former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini at the helm they will make their return to international competition this summer at the Euros, in the same group as Wales, but for now a World Cup campaign is their main focus. 

For Northern Ireland, who haven’t made it to a World Cup since 1986, this game provides a huge test, but one they should relish. Italy are without several Inter Milan defenders heading into this one and the aging Juventus duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are getting on a bit at 33 and 36 respectively. Northern Ireland have their own experienced heads in Kyle Lafferty, Steven Davis and Jonny Evans but will need something special to get anything away from home here. 

Sportsman Stat: Italy haven’t lost to Northern Ireland since 1958.

Betfred Odds: Northern Ireland are 22/1 to beat Italy.

 

Serbia v Republic of Ireland

IRELAND ARE THIRD SEEDS IN THEIR GROUP
IRELAND ARE THIRD SEEDS IN THEIR GROUP

Where: Rajko Mitić Stadium, Belgrade

When: Wednesday, March 24

Kick-off time: 7.45pm

TV: Sky Sports Football

As third seeds in their group this time around, with Portugal and Serbia ranked ahead of them, Stephen Kenny’s Ireland must take something from games like this if they are to reach the World Cup in Qatar next year.  These two met in the last World Cup qualifying group as Serbia topped the table and forced Ireland into a play-off with Denmark, in which they were beaten. 

Serbia meanwhile, have won just two of their last nine matches and have not looked convincing in recent outings. However, the appointment of new manager Dragan Stojkovic this month should give them some improvement, as he has recently managed Guangzhou R&F in China. With the likes of David McGoldrick, Aaron Connolly, Callum Robinson, James Collins and Scott Hogan in the squad, there’s a lot of depth up front, but they will need one of those players to step up and produce quality in the key moments. 

Sportsman Stat: The Republic of Ireland have never beaten Serbia in a competitive fixture.

Betfred Odds: Ireland are 5/1 to beat Serbia

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