Nations League Preview 17th and 18th November

Croatia can win entertaining Wembley showdown

The inaugural Nations League is hurtling towards its conclusion and here we look ahead to some of Saturday and Sunday’s games for our best bets.

Portugal can edge Azzuri battle

Portugal need only a point in Milan to make the finals next summer, while the Azzurri must shrug off the weight of history if they are to prevent Fernando Santos’ side taking what they want.

Italy are winless in five home matches for only the second time in their history – and first time since January 1925. In favour of Roberto Mancini’s outfit is their strong track record against the reigning European champions – Italy have won 18 of 26 previous meetings, losing only six times.

Portugal will also be without key defender Pepe, who is suspended. The home side will rely on their renowned defensive abilities and hope to steal the win they require. Italy’s last 12 goals have all been scored by different players, so the visiting side will need to be on guard from all areas in the San Siro.

This is a tough game to call. Portugal have won the last two meetings 1-0 and, given Italy’s recent struggles, might just do so again at odds of 8.25.

Tartan Army can repeat the dose

Alex McLeish is under pressure and needs a win in Albania to send his Scotland team into the group finale with Israel at Hampden Park in a good spirits.

This is the first trip to Albania for the Tartan Army and their team won the reverse game 2-0 in Glasgow in September. The home side are missing Migjen Basha and Elseid Hysaj through suspension, while Scotland have been hit by a number of injury blows.

That said, this is a game Scotland should possess the quality to win. McLeish is being urged in many quarters to hand a start to Celtic winger James Forrest, who has impressed both domestically and in the Europa League this season. A repeat scoreline would be no shock, with Scotland to win 2-0 priced at 10.25.

Swiss lack quality for Red Devils assignment

Belgium have won all three games in the Nations League so far and Roberto Martinez’s World Cup semi-finalists can complete the clean sweep with a win over Switzerland on Sunday, which is priced at 2.10.

The Swiss tend to do well against lower-quality opponents, as we’ve seen in recent qualifying campaigns, only to struggle in major finals against better teams.

Belgium remain with a squad laced with talent. Romelu Lukaku missed out in the win over Iceland but Michy Batshuayi showed his determination and eagerness to impress with a brace.

The Swiss meanwhile have already lost a friendly to Qatar this week and, while they’ll likely be strong come Sunday, the Red Devils can triumph in this one.

More Croatian pain for Three Lions

Croatia have a habit of winning when it matters against England and, after defeating Spain in a dramatic 3-2 win on Thursday, they are set up for a late rally to win Group A4.

Both teams come into this Wembley date knowing three points will give them top spot. A draw however hands the group to Spain. A scoreless outcome means Croatia will be relegated, with the score draw seeing England drop down a tier.

It is probably safest to forget the reverse fixture, played behind closed doors and devoid of atmosphere.

Croatia showed their resilience against Spain, twice being pegged back before a dramatic late winner. Given the lay of the land, an open game is predicted here too.

When these sides met in the World Cup semi-final this summer, Croatia’s superior craft in the middle of the field was evident and that can carry them to success at Wembley. It won’t be straightforward though and they are put forward to win with both teams to score at 5.90.