One of the biggest matches of the international break takes place this Friday, as Poland take on Czech Republic in Group E. A win for the hosts will see them put pressure on the second place visitors, but a victory for the travelling side will put them in a great position to qualify.
The White and Reds have experienced a rather up and down qualifying campaign so far, that has seen two managers take charge. Fernando Santos was replaced by Michal Probierz, but the new boss has also struggled to inspire his squad. Poland are currently in third on ten points, one point behind second, yet the two teams above them have a game in hand. They don't have a terrible defensive record, conceding only nine goals, however they have struggled in the final third, netting only nine times.
This was on display last time out when Poland were held to a 1-1 home draw versus Moldova. The hosts were the clear favorites going into the game, but they went behind just before the half hour mark. Probierz's team attacked continuously and dominated the ball, but they were unable to complete the comeback after Karol Swiderski's goal just after the break.
After six matches, the Locomotive have only suffered defeat on one occasion in Group E and they are currently placed in second on 11 points. The Czech Republic have found it difficult to perform in attack and have only scored eight goals, but Jaroslav Silhavy bases his approach around defensive stability, with his side only conceding five. Vaclav Cerny of VfL Wolfsburg is the top scorer with three goals and his performance may have a say on the outcome versus Poland.
Czech Republic's most recent match was a narrow 1-0 home win over bottom the the group, Faroe Islands. The hosts controlled the tie and had 29 attempts at goal, but it was a Tomas Soucek penalty in the second-half that broke the deadlock. Despite dominating, they struggled for creativity and were far from convincing in attack.
Due to the magnitude of this fixture, the tie could be quite tight to begin with, as both sides will be desperate to not lose. Apart from the Czech Republic going 2-0 up within the first three minutes last time, not much separated the two teams and I expect that to be the case once again. Poland are the favorites at 11/8, a draw is 21/10 and an away win is priced at 2/1.
The final prediction is Poland 1-1 Czech Republic.