Wales and Scotland can make Nations League mark

The group stages of the inaugural UEFA Nations League campaign are edging towards a finale. For plenty of football fans it remains something of a mystery but we all continue to learn as we go!

Here are some best bets for the first round of games in this international break.

Spain can bounce back

Spain suffered a shock reverse last time out against England on home soil but they can respond by sealing top billing in Group A4. They travel to face a Croatia side seemingly still suffering a World Cup hangover. That was evident when Luis Enrique’s side hit them for six in the reverse fixture, before a thoroughly forgettable behind-closed-doors stalemate with England.

La Roja know that a win here takes away any doubts over top spot in the group. Defeat would allow England and Croatia to have a winner takes all battle for supremacy on Sunday. Isco, Saul Niguez and company should have too much and Spain are tipped at 2.10 for victory.

Star men may inspire Wales win

Wales v Denmark is effectively a winner takes all game in Cardiff to see who lands the jackpot in Group B4, with the Republic of Ireland propping things up. Ryan Giggs’ men claimed three very valuable points in Dublin last time out and will attempt to avenge their 2-0 defeat in Copenhagen here.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey missed the clash with Ireland but both are set to return and that could be just the tonic Wales need.

This contest can, arguably, be boiled down to the star performers on each team. Christian Eriksen has been quiet for club and country this season and so Bale and Ramsey earn the nod to get Wales over the line. The home side are a backable 2.70 to win the game, while a 2-1 Wales win at 10.75 also appeals.

World champs to make point

The Netherlands are showing shoots of recovery under Ronald Koeman but in France they meet an unwelcome opponent. The Dutch have only lost three times in 17 games, though two of those have been to their near-neighbours. The latest came in Paris in September in their Nations League opener, with Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud cancelling out Ryan Babel’s leveller.

That was the sixth successive French success against the Netherlands, who are without a win in this fixture for a decade. A point here will see Didier Deschamps’ team top this group and they can take that reward home, with the 1-1 draw fancied at 6.55.

Tartan Army to set up decider

Even a draw in Albania will send Scotland into their home game with Israel with everything to play for but, confidence-wise, the Tartan Army could use a win in Shkoder to boost their belief.

It’s fair to say the second coming of Alex McLeish hasn’t exactly been a total success but Scotland had enough to spare in their 2-0 Hampden Park win over Albania to suggest they can complete the double.

The Nations League is the sort of environment where the Scots must thrive in order to boost hopes of a return to major tournament football for the first time in 20 years.

James Forrest has been flying in Celtic colours this season and Scotland should have enough to justify favouritism at 2.50 in this game, and therefore set up a showdown with the Israelis.