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Champions League second qualifying tonight

Lincoln Red Imps 21.00 v Celtic 1.18; The Draw 9.20
Tuesday, 19:00
Live on BT Sport 2
Brendan Rodgers might be new to Parkhead and to the Champions League qualifying process, but the squad that he has inherited are absolute veterans, with this their fifth straight exploration of the preliminaries and the fourth year in a row that they have kicked off their campaign in the second round.
Their three previous entries at this stage all saw them get underway with a win to nil regardless of the opponents or the venue, prevailing 3-0 at Cliftonville in 2013/14, 1-0 at KR Reykjavik in 2014/15 and 2-0 at home to Stjarnan last term.
Gibraltarian hosts Lincoln Red Imps have scored three times in four prior Champions League outings in front of their fans, with two of those goals coming from the penalty spot. They have fired two blanks in three, while three of the aforementioned four contests featured two strikes exactly.
Recommended Bets: Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.30

The New Saints 6.40 v APOEL 1.67; The Draw 4.00
Tuesday, 19:00
Live on S4C

The New Saints' reward for dismissing San Marino's title holders Tre Penne home and away in the first qualifying round is a double header with APOEL. The Cypriot side were surprise quarter-finalists in 2011/12, yet haven't been beyond the group stage in their three participations since.
However, they haven't failed to get through the second qualifying round in the past decade, keeping clean sheets on their travels on two of their last three clashes at this phase of the competition. The Welsh champions have fallen at this juncture in four successive seasons and in three of those they were shut out as hosts.
Recommended Bet: Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.30

Rosenborg 1.65 v Norrkoping 5.80; The Draw 4.30
Wednesday, 18:15
Live on Betfair Live Video

Sweden are higher than Norway in UEFA's coefficient rankings, but Rosenborg appear the more likely victors of this all-Scandinavian collision.
Whereas Norrkoping last sampled the European Cup in the early 1960s and haven't played in Europe since 2000, the Norwegian club haven't sat out a season for a decade, clearing at least one round of whichever competition they landed in first for eight consecutive years.
Rosenborg's final four continental home fixtures in 2015/16 each served up two goals or fewer, as have three of Norrkoping's last four Swedish league assignments.

Recommended Bet: Back under 2.5 goals @ 2.30

Cruzeiro v Atletico PR : Hurricane to blow through Cruzeiro

Cruzeiro v Atletico PR

Cruzeiro have conceded at least once in each of their first six home games of the Campeonato season.

Tuesday 00:00

HJK Helsinki 2 PS Kemi 0 in yesterday. Not quite the big Finnish Kev was looking for, but he remains in black for the year. 
Our quest to get back in the black begins in Brazil. Cruzeiro have conceded at least once in each of their first six home games of the Campeonato season. The Mineirao faithful have at least seen the Black Beast score twice themselves on each of their most recent two appearances there.
Visiting tonight, Atletico PR have struck twice in 2/3 away games just recently, while failing to keep a single clean sheet themselves in any of the campaign's first six road assignments.
With attacks looking potent and defences unstable, we like the odds-against price on both teams to hit the back of the net at least once this evening.

Recommended Bet
Back Both Teams to Score @ 2.06 in Cruzeiro v Atletico PR

Portugal need to do something

Nobody understands the pressure that France are under in the Euro 2016 final better than two of their opponents on Sunday, Ricardo Carvalho and Cristiano Ronaldo.
The pair started for Portugal at Euro 2004 when they were the last host nation to participate in the final of a World Cup or European Championship. They would also become the first side to lose the final of one of those tournaments on home soil since Sweden at World Cup 1958, being beaten 1-0 by Greece.
Twelve years might not seem like that long to wait for a second chance, especially for a country who had never ventured that far in a competition before that summer, but there have been several near misses since, most notably runs to the semi-finals of World Cup 2006 and Euro 2012.
So now that they are back in the position that they assumed in 2004, one match away from glory, are they going to be able to atone for their error? A 13-match undefeated streak in competitive games since hiring expert international boss Fernando Santos and odds of 2.98 to lift the trophy say yes.
However, the historical precedents suggest that it is far more likely that France succeed where Portugal failed earlier this century and triumph in front of their fans at 1.50.
Four other European nations have fallen short in their first ever World Cup or European Championship final and later been granted a second shot at silverware. None of them took it.
Czechoslovakia followed up their 2-1 extra-time reverse to Italy at World Cup 1934 with a 3-1 loss to Brazil in Chile the next time that they reached a final at World Cup 1962.
Admittedly, there was a fairly hefty gap between those appearances, with them being represented by an entirely different generation of players in the second showdown, but the three other examples all involved countries progressing to two finals in the space of 16 years, as Portugal have done.
Hungary also had first challenge thwarted by Italy at World Cup 1938, with West Germany taking responsibility for ruining their rematch at World Cup 1954, edging past them 3-2 despite Ferenc Puskas and co racing into a 2-0 lead in the opening eight minutes.
Yugoslavia were denied twice in the space of around eight years in the 1960s, and both times at the Euros rather than the World Cup, whereas all the other instances occurred at the latter. They were seen off in extra time in the first ever final against the Soviet Union in 1960 and then beaten in a replay by Italy in 1968.
The most famous runners-up of all time were perhaps the Netherlands side of the 1970s, who surrendered an advantage against rivals West Germany at World Cup 1974 and were then outperformed in extra time by Argentina four years later.

So Portugal are confronted with a zero-from-four strike rate when it comes to European teams seizing their second opportunity at tournament victory, though they will pinch consolation from being the first ones in this position in 38 years, perhaps creating distance between them and the past double failures.

Germany v France : Germany have problems in defence, France have a full squad

Germany v France
Thursday 7th Jul, 20:00
Live on BBC1


France have a full squad to pick from. Coach Didier Deschamps has two major selection decisions to make: whether to recall Adil Rami in place of Samuel Umtiti after the Sevilla centre-back missed France's 5-2 quarter-final win over Iceland through suspension, and whether to recall N'Golo Kante (also suspended against Iceland) in midfield. A linked and even more important question is how will France set-up: in a 4-3-3 formation that would give their unconvincing defence greater protection, or in the 4-2-3-1 formation that has seen them score seven times in their last 135 minutes, and brought out the best in four-goal tournament top scorer Antoine Griezmann?
Germany have problems in defence, midfield and attack as Mats Hummels (suspended), Sami Khedira (injured) and Mario Gomez (injured) are all ruled out. Bastian Schweinsteiger is an injury doubt. The spine of the side is clearly weaker without those three and possibly four players. After using a three-man defence in the quarter-final against Italy (1-1, penalty shoot-out win) Germany are expected to revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Under/Over 2.5 Goals
Unders 1.62, Overs 2.58

They say semi-finals are often cagey affairs but the stats don't actually stack up that way: eight of 16 (50%) European Championship semi-finals since 1984 have featured Over 2.5 Goals. On that basis the real odds on this game featuring three goals or more should be evens.
Most factors ahead of this game point towards a high-scoring encounter. France are the highest-scoring side (11 goals) in the finals and have netted seven goals in two knock-out games. Their defence looks vulnerable as there are ongoing concerns over the quality of their centre-back partnership and Patrice Evra.
Germany also have defensive worries, with Hummels and Khedira ruled out. In the circumstances Overs, as underdog, looks the better bet.

Both Teams to Score
Yes 2.16, No 1.86

'Yes' in this market is the best bet on the game. France are the tournament's top scorers (11 goals), have scored seven times in their last two outings and the only game where they failed to score (0-0 v Switzerland) didn't really matter as they needed only a point to top the group. Throughout the tournament it has been obvious France's attack is better than their defence so they are likely to play on the front foot here. The absence of Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira in the Germany ranks merely increases France's chances of finding the net.
Germany will draw confidence about their own chances of scoring from the fact that France's defence looks so vulnerable. Even without being prolific so far (seven goals in five matches) Germany will believe they can find the net against a France side with an uncertain centre-back pairing and where Evra has looked like the weak link in defence in every single France match.

Recommended Bet

Both Teams to Score @ 2.16

Portugal v Wales: preview

Portugal almost always fall short
Portugal's sole semi-final success in six prior attempts came on the one occasion that they were able to lean on home support at Euro 2004, which was maximised to the tune of a 2-1 victory over the Netherlands. Whenever they have been abroad though, the route to the final has been expertly blocked.
On three of the five instances that they were denied, France assumed responsibility - at Euro 1984, Euro 2000 and World Cup 2006. England eliminated them at World Cup 1966 and Spain oversaw their downfall at Euro 2012. Four of their five conquerors went on to lift the trophy so, if you trust history to repeat itself, you have to be seduced by the9.40 available on this being Wales' summer.

One other thing to be aware of is that in three of their most recent four semi-finals which ended badly, it took more than 90 minutes to confirm their exit, with extra-time goals sending them home twice and a shootout seeing them off on the other.

They specialise in penalty-flavoured demises
English observers are probably under the impression that Portugal are absolute masters from 12 yards after falling victim to their superior composure at both Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006.
However, their three semi-final failures this century were caused by spot-kick-related mishaps, with the range of ways they have been found to flop in this fashion admirable in its innovation. Four years ago, they lost an actual shootout to Spain. In 2006, a 33rd-minute Zinedine Zidane penalty cost them, while they were broken by the same player in the same manner in 2000, only that time as an extra-time golden goal.

In one of their other three final-four showdowns, the penalty pendulum swung their way as Eusebio netted a consolation against England at World Cup 1966, so four of their six semis have involved drama from the spot.

Goals don't flow too freely
Under 2.5 goals might seem quite stingily priced at 1.58 given that all four quarter-finals produced at least two goals and two blitzed clear of the barrier, including the one involving Wales. Yet a look back at Portugal's past semi-final disappointments flags it up as a wise wager.

The last four concluded with two goals or fewer scored in 90 minutes, while the latest two were even less eventful, with the World Cup 2006 semi against France delivering one goal and the Euro 2012 counterpart against Spain not serving up any in two hours. Four of Fernando Santos' team's five games at Euro 2016 have gone under 2.5 goals, with two in four shirking 1.5 as well.

The hosts will be too strong for Iceland

France v Iceland
Sun Jul 3rd, 20:00 BST
Live on ITV


France are below-strength in two positions as Adil Rami and N'Golo Kante are suspended. Lyon's Samuel Umtiti - reportedly on the brink of a move to Barcelona - is the favourite to get picked ahead of Eliaquim Mangala as the replacement for Rami at centre-back.
Yohan Cabaye and Morgan Schneiderlin are the contenders to replace Kante in midfield, although France may use a 4-2-3-1 - as they did in the second-half of their last-16 2-1 win over the Republic of Ireland - rather than a 4-3-3, which would mean Kingsley Coman keeping his place on the right wing and no direct replacement for Kante being called into midfield.
Iceland have had a trouble-free week of training are expected to stick with the Starting XI that beat England 2-1 last Monday.

Match Odds
France 1.45, Iceland 9.80, The Draw 4.70

France have blown hot and cold at this tournament but are overwhelming favourites to win and for all the doubts about them it is difficult to argue with that assessment.
Les Bleus produced their best 45 minutes of the tournament to come from 1-0 down at half-time to beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 in the last 16, and that second-half performance gives them some foundations to build on. Coach Didier Deschamps instructed Antoine Griezmann to get much closer to Olivier Giroud and all of a sudden France were dangerous in attack, with Griezmann scoring twice and the pair combining expertly for the Atletico Madrid attacker's second goal.
Iceland deserve enormous praise for getting this far and are a better footballing side than many give them credit for, as they illustrated with their well-constructed second goal against England. But the truth is that Roy Hodgson's side didn't test Iceland's defence in that game, so we didn't see how resolute these underdogs are. With Payet and Griezmann having proved match-winners so far and Giroud more effective than his critics give him credit for, France are the only sensible option in this market.

Asian handicap
If the price on a France victory is too short to appeal to you then consider backing the hosts on the Asian handicap. You will get better odds on a France win, and the only way you can lose your stakes is if Deschamps' side fail to win the game in 90 minutes.
For a guide to Asian handicap betting, click here.

Recommended Bets

France -1.0 Asian handicap 1.80
Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.16

Italy's second team may still win

Italy v Republic of Ireland
Wednesday June 22, 20:00
Live on ITV

With Italy breezing through to the next round already, it's all about jockeying for position in Group E. Italy are certain of first place because of their head-to-head record against Belgium, so will rotate the squad completely.

That explains the 2.50 around about Italy winning the game. That seems a massive price given the relative abilities of both sides, and will be one worth taking, but only once the team news is out.

Even if Antonio Conte does change the entire starting XI, Italy's second team may still win. If the Azzurri drift in the Match Odds market on the back of team changes, get on.

Italy were less impressive against Sweden than they had been with Belgium, but they did enough to land us a couple of bets, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a slightly more liberated performance here.

Conte has always been capable of switching from a tight, throttling set up to an open one (his Juve were only OCCASIONALLY dull to watch) and I wouldn't be surprised to see a counter attacking masterclass here.

The Republic of Ireland were steamrollered by Belgium, with the life of their challenge seemingly fading the moment that Sweden equalised in their opening game. They must win this one, will have to try and get at Italy, and the longer it doesn't work, the more risks they'll take.

That plays into Italy's hands, and in the absence of Claudio Marchisio, I feel that Marco Parolo could have a key role. Parolo is a really good penalty area finisher in the style of a young David Platt, and he came close against Sweden.

He's worth a bet to finish off one of Italy's counter attacks, assuming he plays, but Antonio Candreva is injured. Watch out for team news before placing the bet as Parolo may be rested.

In a tournament light on goals, the price for Over 2.5 goals is inevitably inflated, and with the likelihood of a more open approach by the Irish, the Overs are too big here at 2.56

I stated in my Group E Preview that I felt Ireland could be good enough to qualify and even finish second in the Group, while Italy would struggle. I was wrong.

My bet on Italy's Tournament Goals finishing Under 5.5 is still running, but three goals and I'm done. They may even arrive at that total here against an Irish side who started the tournament so well but haven't quite had the required quality so far. Gallant, but falling short. As a Welsh rugby fan, I sympathise.

Italy will march on, and as the tournament moves on, they're looking more and more like the team that everyone wants to avoid.

Recommended Bet

Over 2.5 Goals in Italy v Republic of Ireland @ 2.56
Marco Parolo to score @ 5.80
Italy to win (depending on team news) @ 2.50

Iceland v Austria: Back the viking spirit to deny unworthy favourites

Iceland v Austria 
Wednesday, 17:00
Live on BBCi

They've never made a big tournament before and because they don't know when the next one will be, they're making the most of this one. 
In many ways they're the team at this Euros who most resemble the infamous Greece team of 2004. 

You know when you've been in a game with this lot and in their match against Hungary they showed they're not afraid to resort to a few underhand tricks, conceding 15 fouls and seeing three players booked. 
For all the positives about them though, you have to worry about whether they have in them to chase a game if they go behind, even though they did so against Portugal. So it's a good thing for them they may not have to. If Portugal lose or draw 0-0, they just need to draw to finish second.


Despite all of the disappointment of having just the one point from two games and not having scored a goal, at least they're in a position where their destiny is pretty much in their own hands. If they win and Portugal don't, they'll finish second. If they win and Portugal win, they'll almost certainly finish third and with a decent chance of going through. 
They obviously can't control what happens in the Portugal match but if they'd been offered the chance to make the last 16 on the proviso they beat Iceland before the tournament started, they would have taken it.
All that said, they don't really look like scoring and Iceland don't look like conceding too many. But maybe now that they need a win, we'll see them adopt a different approach. As ever, it's anyone's guess whichMarko Arnautovic we'll see on the night but he remains their best chance of creating or scoring a goal. 

Match Odds 

I'm not sure what it is about this group but I don't agree with how any of the matches have been priced up. I thought Iceland and Portugal were too short against Hungary, and that at 2.16, Austria are far too short in this one. 
Iceland were just as impressive as Austria in qualifying and have gone on to play well above what we expected in their first two matches. Austria have seriously under-performed so far. This should be a lot closer in the betting than it is, especially when we add fitness and team spirit into the equation, two qualities Iceland have in abundance. Austria are a big lay.

Over/Under 2.5 Goals

At least those pricing up the markets have got this one right - 1.65 on Unders, with Overs trading at a far bigger 2.50. We expect a war of attrition and we're likely to get one - never the sign of a high-scoring match. Add to that that not a single match in this Group has broken the 2.5 goals barrier and it's a case of 'enough said'.