After last week’s excellent prediction, where I got 3/4 correct and said that the Moscow derby may end in a draw, we move on to the second week of “Matchups”.
With this being an international break, the four matches come from the European World Cup playoff fixtures which take place this weekend, rather than some lower league domestic fixtures.
These games can be split into two sets:
1) Denmark v Republic of Ireland and Italy v Sweden — Even though the Italy v Sweden game is a second leg, we won’t know the result of the first leg until after the matchup prediction is live. This makes these two fixtures slightly more difficult to predict as we don’t know who needs what and which players are in top form for these matches.
2) Greece v Croatia and Switzerland v Northern Ireland — Two second leg ties, with the first leg being played on Thursday night. I’d recommend waiting until after both games have finished and then looking to see which team has the advantage before making your prediction.
With the Moscow Derby causing some problems with it being a draw and everyone ‘losing’ from the opportunity to get Jesus for free, we now have the option to pick a draw as the result which adds a little more interest to proceedings.
So, without further ado, let’s get into this week’s predictions.
DENMARK V REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Denmark reaching the playoffs was almost singlehandedly down to their main man Christian Eriksen. The Spurs playmaker scored in 7 of the 8 games in which Denmark cored in the group stage, being directly involved in 60% of their goals.
Ireland reached the playoffs thanks to a 1-0 win over Wales in the last matchday of the group stage, and qualified as the 8th best of the 2nd placed teams. With a draw away to Serbia and victories in Wales and Austria, the Irish (and their fans) are not to be brushed off lightly.
I can see this being a very close match, with Denmark sneaking a win due to home advantage, but a draw is certainly not off the table.
My prediction: Denmark win
Game is played: Saturday 11th November 7:45 p.m. GMT / 2:45 p.m. EST
SWITZERLAND V NORTHERN IRELAND
Switzerland were in an automatic qualification berth for the entire group stage until they were defeated by European champions Portugal in the final match. With 14 different goal scorers, they are capable of scoring from anyone in the team, even without too many big name players.
Northern Ireland shocked everyone in this qualifying campaign, qualifying with games to spare. Their team strength as a unit is not to be overlooked, and they pride themselves on a very tight defence.
Switzerland being at home, combined with key trickster Xherdan Shaqiri seeming to have found form at the right time makes be feel like a home win is going to be the final result.
My prediction: Switzerland win
Games is played: Sunday 12th November, 5:00 p.m. GMT / 12:00 p.m. EST
GREECE V CROATIA
Croatia would have secured their ticket to Russia if they hadn’t conceded a 90th minute equaliser in their last home game of the campaign against Finland. Instead, Iceland have reached their second tournament in a row, where their fans can impress on an international stage once again.
Greece only tasted defeat once in the group stage — a 2-1 loss at home to Belgium – and were the only team to take points off of the Red Devils. Since their shock EURO 2004 win, they haven’t been able to recreate that success, but they will be aiming to avoid their second tournament absence in a row.
Greece’s record in qualifying shows that they certainly aren’t to be laughed at, but I can’t see them making too big an upset against the sheer qualify that Croatia possess in their midfield and attack.
My prediction: Croatia win
Games is played: Sunday 7:45 p.m. GMT / 2:45 p.m. EST
ITALY V SWEDEN
Had this match come four or five years ago, it would have been a huge encounter. Ibrahimovic in his prime against the Azzurri’s rock solid Juventus backline. In two very different group stages, Italy performed as expected, only losing away to runaway group leaders Spain.
Swedish fans must have been dreading qualification, having been drawn with both France and the Netherlands. However, the decline of the Dutch came at the right time for Sweden, who showed no sign of being in a decline of their own without Ibra, and finished in second place, ahead of the Dutch on goal difference.
With Italy’s defensive record in qualifying was excellent, and Sweden one of the top scorers, it looks set to be a very exciting tie, but I feel like the Italians will benefit from home advantage and get the win this time.
My prediction: Italy win
Game is played: Monday 13 November, 7:45 p.m. GMT / 2:45 p.m. EST
That’s who I think will win the four Matchups games this week. Who do you think will get the wins? Remember, that if you get all 4 games correct, you will win a special 83-overall RM Xherdan Shaqiri.
Good luck and happy predicting!