Our Premier League tips went down a storm last weekend with several big money winners amongst the tips I provided you with last week. However, we’ll have to put that on hiatus for a weekend as this coming weekend is the first International break of the season.
And it is an unusual one as the teams will not go straight into qualifying for Euro 2020, but instead, UEFA’s new fledgling international tournament, the Nations League, will get underway with the first set of games from Thursday 6th to Saturday 8th September, followed by a second set from Sunday 9th to Tuesday 11th September.
Let’s now learn a little about the UEFA Nations League and how it is set up, before taking a look ahead to the big games coming up this week from Thursday to Saturday.
The UEFA Nations League
This is a biennial tournament which starts every even numbered year following the completion of the World Cup or the European Championships the previous summer. The tournament has two stages. The initial League phase runs from September to November of those years, with six dates available for games to be played. This is then followed by a Playoff period in June the following year when the winners of each of the four groups in each of the four leagues will play off against the other winning teams from their leagues.
It sounds complicated, but it is actually very simple once you understand the structure of the tournament.
- League A – comprises of the 12 highest ranked teams from UEFA
- League B – comprises of the next 12 ranked teams from UEFA
- League C – comprises of the next 15 ranked teams from UEFA
- League D – comprises of the bottom 16 ranked teams from UEFA
Each League is then split into four groups. Some have three teams in, some have four. Teams in each group then play each other home and away between September and November. The top team in each group qualifies for that League’s Playoffs. The bottom team in Groups A, B and C are relegated to the League below and replaced with the winners of the groups from Leagues B, C and D.
In this way teams can be promoted and relegated throughout the League’s over the course of the competition. It is the promotion and relegation which will then decide which teams are in which Leagues for the next UEFA Nations League tournament.
There will be playoffs in June for each of the four group winners in each league and whoever wins the League playoffs, will earn a qualifying place at the next European Championships. The winner of the League A playoffs are declared the UEFA Nations League winners.
UEFA Nations League Draws
- Group 1 – Germany, France, the Netherlands
- Group 2 – Belgium, Switzerland, Iceland
- Group 3 – Portugal, Italy, Poland
- Group 4 – Spain, England, Croatia
- Group 1 – Slovakia, Ukraine, Czech Republic
- Group 2 – Russia, Sweden, Turkey
- Group 3 – Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Northern Ireland
- Group 4 – Wales, Republic of Ireland, Denmark
- Group 1 – Scotland, Albania, Israel
- Group 2 – Hungary, Greece, Finland, Estonia
- Group 3 – Slovenia, Norway, Bulgaria, Cyprus
- Group 4 – Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Lithuania
- Group 1 – Georgia, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Andorra
- Group 2 – Belarus, Luxembourg, Moldova, San Marino
- Group 3 – Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands, Malta, Kosovo
- Group 4 – Macedonia, Armenia, Liechtenstein, Gibraltar
The tournament was designed to do away with meaningless friendly games at International level, as well as offering teams the chance to play against opponents of a similar level of ability more often. In addition, the fact that one team from each of the four Leagues will earn a place in the European Championships will mean teams from League C and in particular League D, who seldom earn a qualifying spot through the usual qualification system, will have a better chance to participate in the finals.
This Weeks Games
There are 20 games in total taking place from Thursday 6th to Saturday 8th September. These, together with the current odds on the Match Result market from bet365 are shown in the screenshot below.
INSERT BET365 SCREENSHOT
*Odds shown are correct as of 13.45pm GMT on Monday 3rd September 2018
As you can see there are a number of top games to look out for and here are our tips for the best and most intriguing matches taking place over those days.
Thursday 6th September
League A – Group 1 – Germany v France
One of the best aspects of the new UEFA Nations League is the prospect of Europe’s top teams facing each other more often and that begins on Day One of the new tournament with the current World Cup holders, France taking on the team they inherited that mantle from Germany in what should be a cracking clash in Munich.
France were deserving winners of the World Cup, improving as the tournament went on to claim a fine win over Croatia in the final. Players like Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe produced the goods to take Didier Deschamps team to the title in style and they will pose the home side a massive test.
Germany’s World Cup was a disaster as they picked up just one win from three games and were eliminated from the Group Stages for the first time since 1938. However Joachim Low will know that this was more a blip than a dramatic decline and I fully expect Germany to give France a stern test, even tougher than the one they faced in their recent World Cup final win.
I expect there to be goals in this game as I don’t think either side is the greatest defensively, but I am backing both sides to share the goals equally and for this one to finish as a draw, which is a 23/10 option currently with bet365.
League B – Group 4 – Wales v Republic of Ireland
Both Wales and the Republic of Ireland will be well familiar with each other after having played each other twice during qualifying for Russia 2018. Wales have a poor recent record against Ireland, winning just one of the last 11 games between the teams and that was way back in 1992. The teams drew 0-0 in Dublin in March 2017, before the Republic of Ireland beat Wales 1-0 in Cardiff back in October 2017 in their two recent World Cup qualifiers.
That defeat ended a run of draws for Wales at home to Ireland and was a moral blow to their campaign to qualify for Russia 2018. However with Gareth Bale now back in the fold, the Welsh will be at full strength for this game and his addition will give the home fans hope that they can get off to a rare winning start against the Irish.
Martin O’Neil’s team didn’t make it past the Danes in the playoffs for the World Cup and that low will be fresh in the Irish team’s memory. However the Republic of Ireland did win on their last trip to Wales and they’ll be confident they can do likewise here.
This will be a really close game and I think the best option is a draw here which is a 21/10 chance with bet365 Sport.
Saturday 8th September
League A – Group 4 – England v Spain
England’s unexpected World Cup semifinal spot made it a summer of positivity for Gareth Southgate and his young team, but they will need to prove they can produce the goods against some of the biggest teams in Europe in the UEFA Nations League and their first test looks like being a very tough one against a talented Spanish team.
England’s World Cup success was built chiefly on the goals of Harry Kane, a solid defence and the ability to grab goals from set pieces. England will likely threaten Spain from these situations again, but the question will be whether the English team can gain enough possession against the Spanish to cause them problems.
Spain suffered a miserable World Cup after Julen Lopetegui was dismissed on the eve of the finals. Spain never really recovered from that but now with Luis Enrique installed as the new manager, you can bet that the Spanish team will want to make a big statement with a win here against one of their most fierce rivals.
This is a big test for England and perhaps bigger than any of the games they played in the World Cup but they do have home advantage. Spain have shown frailty in defence at times and I do think England will score, but I am backing both teams to pick up a point here which is a 21/10 shot with bet365 at present.