by Antony Jordan
This weekend sees the battle for places at the European Championships in France next summer heat up as the sides looking to book their places in the premier UEFA competition begin the second half of their group qualification campaigns. The biggest games this Saturday see two of the fiercest rivals in the British Isles battle at the Aviva Stadium in Ireland v Scotland from Group D while we’re also taking a look at the matches from Group I featuring the top two sides in Portugal and Denmark.
All of our best Euro 2016 tips on this trio of matches are below with odds provided by online sportsbook Unibet.com.
Ireland v Scotland: 2.25 – 3.15 – 3.40
Just three points separate the top four teams of Poland, Germany, Scotland and Ireland at the top of Group D with the sides sitting on 11, 10, 10 and 8 points respectively. With Scotland able to pull a five point gap on the Irish by completing the double over their fellow Celts following a 1-0 at Celtic Park in November the home side will need to be at their best if they aim to be in place for a top three place at the end of the campaign and book their place in France next summer.
Ireland have bounced back well following their loss to Scotland at the end of 2014 with a win and two draws all at the Aviva Stadium as they defeated USA 4-1 six months ago before rescuing a point with an injury time leveller against group toppers Poland in March. They warmed up for this match with a dour and boring match against England last Sunday that ended 0-0, but with them coming through the match unscathed to have a full squad to choose from with a confidence boost from a clean sheet they will feel that they can win this match and move ahead of the Scots.
Scotland have been impressive on the road in their campaign with them unlucky to be edged out in Germany as they were beaten 2-1 before leading 2-1 against Poland before the Poles snatched a point late on. They have beaten Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and Qatar in 2015 but with two of these friendly matches and only the competitive matches coming against the group minnows in Gibraltar how will they fare in Dublin?
This is sure to be another close match like the majority of meetings between the sides, with just one of the last six matches seeing more than a single goal separate the sides, but with both sides fully aware of the importance of this match we can see both sides creating chances at the Aviva Stadium and there being goals from both sides in an exciting game.
Our pick of the Euro 2016 tips from the Ireland v Scotland match is back to score at odds of 2.08 in the Unibet Sportsbook.
Denmark v Serbia: 2.20 – 3.25 – 3.45
Parken, the home of Danish Superliga side FC Copenhagen, hosts this must win clash for both teams as Denmark wish to keep hold of their second place in Group I and Serbia look to start putting points on the board and close on both Denmark and Albania who sit six points clear of them. Unibet.com believes that it will be the host side that takes all three points and all but ends the chances of the Serbian side challenging for a place in France and after a brace of goals from former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner in a 3-1 away win for the Danes in Serbia last November you can see why the bookmakers believe this.
On top of this triumph Denmark have lost just two matches in the last two years on home soil and both losses, a friendly defeat to Turkey last September and to Portugal in this group a month later, have come as a result of injury time goals at the end of the match. They have won all of the other six games in their last eight matches as the home side so they will be full of confidence and this will have been boosted by the 2-1 win against Montenegro last Monday too.
The Serbs will be boosted by a 4-1 win over Azerbaijan at the weekend too but with only an injury time goal in Armenia in their first game of this qualification group seeing them provided with a point things will be tough against the impressive Danes. Their second match saw them awarded a 3-0 win in the abandoned game against Albania, although they were stripped of the points for their part in the match ending brawl, before losses to Denmark and away to Portugal see them in trouble at this stage of the campaign.
Serbia must win this match, but we are not confident that they can upset the odds in Copenhagen this weekend and we fancy a home win for the 1992 European Champions. However, the Serbian side has enough quality to push their hosts all the way and we can see goals in this match as well so we’re combining these Euro 2016 tips and backing Denmark to win and both sides to score at odds of 5.50 with Unibet.com.
Armenia v Portugal: 8.00 – 4.20 – 1.45
The final match we’re taking a look at also comes from Group I and this Armenia v Portugal game pits bottom of the group against the top. The home side has taken just a single point from their four games as they drew 1-1 with Serbia and came within seconds of taking all three points but they have twice dropped points while leading as Denmark and Albania came from behind against them whilst on their travels and they were also beaten 1-0 in Portugal by a 72nd minute Cristiano Ronaldo goal. They have not been defeated by more than a single goal so far, but with them back on home soil for just the second time can they claim their first win of the campaign?
Portugal did not get off to the best start as they were beaten 1-0 at home by Albania and they have since failed to excite and move through the gears in Group I as two 1-0 wins over Denmark and their hosts this weekend preceded a 2-1 win at home to Serbia. Their key man has been Cristiano Ronaldo as he netted both goals in the 1-0 wins to provide the side with six of their nine points and there is plenty of value on the Real Madrid striker for this match.
CR7 can be backed at odds of 5.50 to score a header and 5.75 to score a thunderbolt from outside the box, while he is available at odds of 1.78 to score anytime during the match and 3.25 to score the first and last goals as well. The former Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United player stands head and shoulders above the rest of the players that will take to the pitch in Yerevan and we’re backing him to open the scoring in this match just like in the first meeting of the sides last November`.
Our top pick from the Armenia v Portugal Euro 2016 tips pile is back Cristiano Ronaldo to score the first goal of the game at 3.25 with Unibet.