Thu, Mar 23, 2:46pm by Staff Writer
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side will move a step closer to qualifying for Russia 2018 this weekend with a seemingly simple match against Hungary.
The European champions are second in Group B and can join Switzerland at the top of the group with a win at Estadio da Luz.
After losing their opening group match 2-0 at Switzerland, Portugal scored 16 goals and conceded just one in its next three encounters.
Joint Group G-leading Spain is an even heavier favourite for their home match against Israel, who have impressed so far this campaign.
Spain and Italy have won three of their four matches with one draw, while Israel has three wins and a loss.
Despite going into the match without injured Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal, 2010-winner Spain are the unbackable favourite at $1.10 to win against $26 for a loss and $9 for a draw.
Four-time champions Italy, meanwhile, are expected to keep pace with the Spaniards after their home match against Albania.
The match will be the Azzurri’s second home game after drawing 1-1 against Spain in October.
With the firepower of Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti at their disposal, Italy are expecting a more decisive outcome this weekend with at $1.25 for the win, $13 for a loss and $5.50 for a draw.
One of the more entertaining matches of the qualifying round will come when Group D leader Ireland host Celtic rival Wales.
Martin O’Neill’s Ireland are unbeaten so far with three wins and a draw with Serbia, while fourth-placed Wales are also unbeaten with three draws and a win.
With Gareth Bale up front for Wales, Ireland are no certainty to win and are at $2.50 to claim the points against just $3.20 for a loss and $2.90 for a draw.
Second-place Serbia will be ready to take the lead if Ireland falter, with an easier match at Georgia.
The Serbs are just two points behind Ireland and are paying $1.70 to take at least a share of the lead if Ireland doesn’t win, with $5.50 for a loss and $3.40 for a draw.
Luxembourg are the rank outsider for their home match against Group A-leading France, who are also unbeaten after four matches.
Despite his lacklustre Premier League form, Paul Pogba has looked extremely impressive for France, scoring in back-to-back games.
Second-place Netherlands are also expected to beat Bulgaria, at slightly better odds. The Dutch side are on $1.53 for an away win, with $6 for a loss and $4 for a draw.
Belgium and Greece will battle it out for the Group H lead as they try and draw away from Bosnia Herzegovina.
Belgium have won all four of their qualifiers so far, while Greece are also unbeaten, but have conceded a draw and sits two points behind.
The Belgians are expected to extend their lead, paying $1.30 for a win, $11 for a loss and $5 for a draw.
The remaining qualifiers will be played early next week and we’ll cover those matches in details on Sunday.
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