Belarus vs Germany: Germany (-2) – 17/10
Germany look to have turned a corner since their shambolic efforts in the World Cup and the Nations League. Yes, that is based entirely off one game, but they were unrecognisable in an impressive 3-2 win in Amsterdam in March.
Meanwhile, Belarus enjoyed promotion from the final tier of the Nations League, but sit bottom of the qualifying group after two games. At the end of the day, the Belarussians only beat San Marino and Luxembourg in their Nations League campaign, so promotion isn’t much to write home about.
They were trounced 4-0 by Holland in their opener before succumbing to a narrow defeat in Belfast four days later and there is little chance that will emerge with anything other than another defeat on Saturday night.
Unlike Holland, Germany don’t have the safety net of qualifying for the Euros through the Nations League and will be looking to wrap up qualification as soon as possible and avoid any embarrassments.
Belarus may not have lost at home since 2017, but they also haven’t played anyone with 11 competent footballers since 2017.
On that occasion, they were trounced by Sweden and well beaten by Holland in the space of four days, losing 4-0 and 3-1. They could be in for a similar beating here.
Estonia vs Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland to win – 10/11
The fixture list for Group C has fallen in such a way that Northern Ireland can kick off their campaign with 12 points from their first four games, and it is imperative that they do. Two games against both Belarus and Estonia at the front end of the group must return four wins if Northern Ireland are to stand any chance of qualifying for Euro 2020.
With four games against Germany and Holland to follow, it is unlikely that they will pick up too many points as the group reaches its climax and really have to rely on Germany beating Holland home and away and then pulling off a miraculous result against the Dutch. For that to happen, they simply must win on Saturday.
They enjoyed a fairly facile win over Estonia in Windsor Park and will be looking to repeat it on Saturday.
It’s a case of shocking home form meets shocking away form, with Northern Ireland’s last win on the road coming in 2017 against San Marino, and Estonia’s last win at home coming in May last year against Lithuania in a friendly.
Neither side can especially proud of their showings, but Northern Ireland have at least been playing against a far higher calibre of opposition. Their absolute need to get a victory should get them over the line.
Scotland vs Cyprus: Scotland (-1) – 6/4
It’s a new dawn for Scottish football after they reached rock bottom in March. A humiliating 3-0 defeat in Kazakhstan, coupled with an unconvincing win in San Marino, spelled the end for Alex McLeish and they now begin life under Steve Clarke.
They can already forget about qualifying via the conventional route for Euro 2020; the damage has been done in that respect.
They needed a flawless record against the lesser teams if they were to usurp either Belgium or Russia in the top two spots and the chances of that happening now look distinctly remote.
Luckily, they still have a play-off thanks to their decent showing in the Nations League and all hope is not lost. They will want to pick up momentum before those play-offs though, and a home game with Cyprus is a nice gentle start for Clarke in the hot seat.
A 2-1 win in Gibraltar is the Cypriots’ only away win since 2015, and they have only won two of their last 15 games in all competitions.
They were relegated to League D of the Nations League last autumn and it would be a major shock if they managed to get anything against a Scotland outfit that really shouldn’t have been as bad as they were.
There is a lot of promising players in the Scotland set-up and results have been nothing short of disgraceful. With a new manager at the helm, they should be right at it.
* All odds correct at time of posting and may vary up to kick-off.