THE NATIONS LEAGUE takes centre stage this weekend as the Premier League takes a well-deserved rest.
We’ve betting tips to bring you from two huge clashes in Europe, before heading across the Atlantic for a crunch World Cup qualifier involving Argentina.
Portugal are Nations League holders and held France to a draw in ParisCredit: EPA
Portugal vs France – Saturday, 7.45pm (Sky Sports)
A potential game-of-the-weekend clash from Lisbon gets us underway.
The defending Euro champions face the World champions once again after a 0-0 stalemate last month in Paris.
That was a game of two defences, with Portugal showing the kind of toughness which give them a superb chance of retaining their crown next summer.
They currently lead Group 3, holding off the second-placed French on goal difference.
But never underestimate Didier Deschamps men, who left it late to beat Croatia last time out in the Nations League.
And definitely ignore their poor performance against Finland in midweek due to an experimental XI.
That 0-0 draw in the French capital saw just six shots on target, but you couldn’t split the two sides over 90 minutes.
50/50 possession, 13 attempts each, same blocked shots, even their passing stats were separated by just four (603 to 607, if you’re interested).
Basically, you can’t split these two and we wouldn’t be surprised to see another draw.
Just one of the last five meetings have seen over 2.5 goals and despite Ronaldo chasing his 103rd international goal, we’re not convinced this is going to be a goal fest.
Ronaldo came off the bench to score in the thrashing of AndorraCredit: Reuters
Portugal have conceded just once in their last six matches – and even that was in a 4-1 thrashing over Croatia.
21/10 on a draw is definitely worth backing if the defences remain on top.
And for those of you wanting to play even safter, under 2.5 goals at 8/13 is the way to go.
Ronaldo was rested from the start against Andorra in midweek as he recovers from a dose of Covid-19 – and still found time to bag his 102nd international goal from the bench.
He’s evens to net anytime – an excellent price and very easy to back.
SunSport’s best bets
Belgium vs England – Sunday 7.45pm (Sky Sports)
Ahh, how we yearn for 2018.
You could go to a game, sit in the pub, see your mates – and England were a bright, fearless attacking young side.
Fast forward two years and Gareth Southgate is under pressure to deliver following a number of limp, uninspired results since football returned from lockdown.
It’s certainly not all doom and gloom though, with the Three Lions already booked in at the Euros next summer.
And the B side looked the part in the win over Ireland in midweek.
You could say that Southgate is simply experimenting with his pack ahead of a major tournament.
But just three goals in four Nations League matches is not the England we’ve come to expect and many are calling for Southgate to let off the shackles.
It was a bizarre game at Wembley when these sides met there last month with the Three Lions somehow coming out with a 2-1 victory.
Belgium have won their other three Nations League games comfortably and sit top of the pile in Group 2.
A victory for the visitors here though would see Southgate’s men head back to the summit.
See, what’s all the fuss about?
England will need to be infinitely better than their 0-1 loss to Denmark, in which they failed to ever get going against well organised opposition.
Belgium will attack here and attack with speed, so don’t expect Southgate to abandon his holding midfielder experiment.
Lukaku scored at Wembley and we reckon he bags again at 6/4Credit: Reuters
Betting wise, the home side are a terrific 11/8 despite being unbeaten on home soil since September 2016.
That makes the 4/11 you can get on Belgium to either win or draw an absolute steal – and definitely one to top up your accumulators.
As much as we’d love a return to the England which tore Spain apart on that glorious October evening two years ago, we’re not holding our breath.
England might have only been on the road twice so far this calendar year, but they’ve mustered just 5 shots on target across games against Demnark and Iceland.
This is a big step up.
Four out of Belgium’s last six matches have seen three or more goals, including that 2-1 reverse in London.
Despite England’s stingy outings on the road, we’re expecting goals in this one at a very backable price.
Over 2.5 goals is 17/20, whilst we’re also a massive fan of Belgium to win EITHER half at a huge 7/10.
Romelu Lukaku has thrived since leaving the Premier League and is fast developing into one of Europe’s best marksmen.
He has 10 in 11 matches so far in 2020/21 – including against England last month – so shouldn’t be 6/4 to score anytime on Sunday. Get on.
SunSport’s best bets
Peru vs Argentina, Wednesday 00.30am
Never mind the Euros, South America has World Cup fever.
The home side are in the midst of a shocking run of form and haven’t won a competitive game since July 2019, although they did stun Brazil when 12/1 in a Rio friendly.
Argentina are going into this one in good nick, and in direct parallel to the hosts haven’t lost since July last year.
Away banker then, surely?
Well, not so fast – Argentina on their travels are not a gimme and haven’t beaten Peru on their last three visits here.
All of those matches have ended in draws, with the most recent a World Cup qualifier in 2016.
The Argentine’s looked to have won it through Gonzalo Higuain with a late strike, but were dominated throughout and Peru deservedly grabbed an equaliser from the spot.
World Cup 2022 could be Messi’s last chance Credit: AFP or licensors
Just as they showcased in Bolivia, Argentina aren’t a slick, attacking force and they had to come from behind after managing just 43 percent possession.
In a nutshell, don’t expect this to be a walkover.
Argentina have conceded on their last four visits to Peru and the home side, despite their poor recent form, managed to score twice against Brazil last time out.
Both teams to score is therefore in play at a generous 8/11, while we’re also tempted by Peru to score more than once again at 11/4.
Messi dreams of lifting the World Cup and it’s about the only thing left he hasn’t won.
The little magician has three in his last two matches, but none for his country this term.
That can all change in Lima – get on a Messi first goal at 3/1.
SunSport’s best bets
*All odds from Ladbrokes and correct at time of publication.
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