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Our Handicap Tips for Thursday's Action - 11/11/21

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Germany vs Liechtenstein: Germany (-5)

The next location on Die Mannschaft’s World Cup qualification roadshow is Wolfsburg, as Hansi Flick’s revitalised Germany side host Liechtenstein, with their place in Qatar already secured, and the visitors guaranteed to finish bottom.

Germany have won five from five since Flick took over, and even though they have been against much lower opposition, they have been ruthless in front of goal. Putting six past Armenia and four past both Iceland and North Macedonia shows they have come a long way from their embarrassing home defeat to the Macedonians in March.

Liechtenstein lost both their October qualifiers by four goals to nil and the only game they have avoided defeat in during 2021 saw them snatch a point in Armenia with just 26% of the ball, and 28 shots faced on their goal. Germany have scored 23 goals over this qualifying campaign, while Liechtenstein have conceded 23.

If the domination seen in the reverse fixture repeats itself, where Germany had 30 shots and 82% possession, expect them to improve on their 2-0 win in front of home support. Germany (-5) is EVENS.

World Cup Qualifiers Predictions

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Germany (-5) v Liechtenstein @ 1/1

Georgia vs Sweden: Sweden (-1)

Sweden can pile the pressure on their closest rivals Spain in Group B, when they travel to Georgia for a 5pm kick-off on Thursday, as a win will put them five points clear at the top before Spain even kick a ball.

Defeat in Greece in September may be the decisive factor which costs Sweden an automatic qualifying place. Having led the way all the way through qualifying, a defeat in Spain will see them demoted into second, should Spain also beat Greece on Thursday. They have been imperious during 2021 though, winning 11 of their 14 internationals, and they saw off Greece and Kosovo with ease on home turf during October’s fixtures.

After running Spain very close in Tbilisi before falling to an injury-time defeat and drawing away in Greece, Georgia’s campaign has fallen to pieces in front of them post-summer. A run of five successive defeats was halted last time out though when they won away in Kosovo, but with this being their final qualifier, it is simply a battle to avoid finishing bottom now.

As Sweden have so much to play for, expect them to be on their game here. Sweden (-1) is 11/8.

Malta vs Croatia: Croatia (-2)

After slipping up at home to Slovakia last time out, Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia side desperately need a win in Malta on Thursday night to keep up their fading hopes of qualifying automatically for Qatar 2022.

Croatia’s first qualifier and their most recent qualifier have been the huge stumbling blocks that could prevent the 2018 finalists from making it to the next edition automatically. A 1-0 loss in Slovenia and a 2-2 draw with Slovakia means Russia now lead the group by two points and both nations have very winnable qualifiers on Thursday.

Malta have lost seven of their ten matches this calendar year, and two of the games they avoided defeat in were against Cyprus who are below them in the standings. A 4-0 loss on home soil to Slovenia last month was the low point of their campaign as their 17 goals conceded ranks as the worst in the section.

With it so close between Croatia and Russia, goal difference could be very important, so the incentive for Croatia to fill their boots is there for them. Croatia (-2) is 11/10.

World Cup Qualifiers Predictions

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Croatia (-2) v Malta @ 11/10

Russia vs Cyprus: Russia (-3)

Also in Group H, Russia face bottom-placed Cyprus knowing a win will mean a point in Croatia three days later will be enough to confirm automatic qualification ahead of the 2018 runners-up.

Four wins in a row, including two superb results over Slovakia and Slovenia in October’s internationals mean qualification is now in Russia’s hands. After a woeful showing at Euro 2020, being one of the eight sides eliminated in the group stage, Russia have responded brilliantly, conceding just one goal in their five matches since the summer’s debacle.

Despite scoring only seven in those five games, Russia now face a Cyprus side who have hardly put a foot right in their five qualifiers post-summer. Four successive defeats, conceding ten goals was then followed by a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Malta, a side who also beat them 3-0 at the start of their poor run.

Russia have faced Cyprus three times in the last two years, winning all three by an aggregate score of 8-0. With Cyprus in a torrid run of form, Russia (-3) is our tip at 10/3.

World Cup Qualifiers Predictions

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Russia (-4) v Cyprus @ 4/1

Romania vs Iceland: Romania (-1)

The three-horse race behind Germany for a play-off spot in Group J will be one of the most interesting subplots of this international break, and a huge game for Romania sees them welcome Iceland to Bucharest.

Romania sit one point ahead of nearest challengers Armenia and North Macedonia, who both play each other on the same night, and with Liechtenstein to come for the Tricolorii, a win over Iceland will put them in a hugely commanding position to qualify for the play-offs in second. All three challengers have been wildly inconsistent so far though, so nothing is guaranteed.

Iceland can still mathematically come second and a win here is a must, but defeat on home turf to Romania and a draw with North Macedonia in September effectively ended any realistic hopes they had, as numerous results would need to go in their favour now. Their only two wins in the group came home and away to Liechtenstein, so their inability to compete with sides at a similar level to them has been costly.

Romania have won three of their last five, including a 2-0 win in Iceland, with a narrow late loss in Germany being their only defeat. Romania (-1) is 13/8.

By Andrew Delaney

World Cup Qualifiers Predictions

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Romania (-1) vs Iceland @ 13/8