UEFA Nations League Preview: Spain, Belgium look to extend dominance
Another international break is upon us with the resumption of the UEFA Nations League this week. We have some intriguing fixtures coming up, so here is a preview of tomorrow's fixtures.
Belgium v Iceland
Belgium will go into this game as heavy favourites to take the 3 points. The hosts have won their opening 2 games of the Nations League whilst Iceland have lost all 3 so far with a goal difference of -11.
In fact, Iceland are currently in a terrible run of form in all competitions- 11 games without a victory since beating Indonesia in what was an unofficial friendly. Belgium, however, are in good stead with a number of in-form players to call upon. Romelu Lukaku is the current top scorer in League A despite his poor form domestically and will be looking to rediscover his scoring touch. Belgium's talismanic captain Eden Hazard has been in brilliant form this season and will fancy his chances against a ropey Iceland rearguard- definitely the player to watch in this match.
Last Meeting: Iceland 0-3 Belgium (Lukaku x2, Hazard)
Croatia v Spain
Spain can secure top spot in this group if they are able to defeat Croatia in this match, with 2 wins from their 3 games so far. Croatia have 1 point from their 2 games so far, a drab 0-0 draw at home to England. Both sides had a contrasting World Cup experience in the summer with Spain crashing out at the group stage and Croatia making it all the way to the final.
Since then, Spain have been resurgent and rediscovered themselves somewhat after a turbulent few months. Croatia have struggled since the tournament and have won only 1 in 5 since losing in the final to France. The hosts will be looking to get back to winning ways here whilst Spain will be hoping to bounce back from a shock 3-2 defeat to England last time out. It is also worth noting that the reverse of this fixture in September was an absolute rout with Spain running out 6-0 winners. Saul has been in brilliant form for Atletico Madrid this season and will be the player to watch here, he also notched against Croatia in the aforementioned fixture.
Last Meeting: Spain 6-0 Croatia (Saul, Asensio, Kalinic OG, Rodrigo, Ramos, Isco)
Austria v Bosnia-Herzegovina
An intriguing fixture here with two good footballing sides facing off in Vienna. Austria have 3 points from their opening 2 games whilst Bosnia have won all 3 of their Nations League games thus far. For Austria, consistency is the issue in recent months with their form in the last 5 games being LWLWL. Bosnia are on a run of 8 games without defeat and will head into this one full of confidence.
In Edin Dzeko, the visitors have a world-class goal threat, whilst Austria have David Alaba and Marko Arnautovic in their ranks. However, my one to watch in this game is Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic.
Last Meeting: Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 Austria (Dzeko)
Hungary v Estonia
Two struggling sides clashing here in League C, both badly out of form and in need of a morale-boosting victory. Hungary have won only 2 of their 10 games whilst Estonia have won 1 of their last 10. This was an absolute goal-fest last time out with a 3-3 draw in Tallinn, and with both sides battling Nations League relegation we could see another closely contested game here.
Adam Szalai is the main goal threat in this fixture- he has 4 goals in 9 games for Hoffenheim this season and scored a brace in the 3-3 draw last month so he is my player to watch in this one.
Last Meeting: Estonia 3-3 Hungary (Luts, Patkai OG, Anier; Nagy, Szalai x2)
Greece v Finland
Here we see the group leaders Finland travel to Greece looking to maintain their 100% record in this competition so far. Greece sit in 2nd place and will be looking to close the gap here. Finland are on a run of 5 successive victories whilst Greece are struggling badly for a run of consistent results.
Much of Finland's success in recent games has been down to the form of Norwich City striker Teemu Pukki who has scored 3 of their 5 Nations League goals so far and sits 2nd in the League C top scorers list. He also has 9 goals in 14 games domestically, so on this form, he is my one to watch in this game.
Last Meeting: Finland 2-0 Greece (Soiri, Kamara)
Kazakhstan v Latvia
After losing all of their games in 2017, the hosts' fortunes have greatly improved this year and so far they have given a solid account of themselves in the Nations League. 5 points from their first 4 games see them in 2nd spot in this group. Latvia are without in a win in their last 6 games and currently sit 3rd in the group three points behind Kazakhstan.
In a game with relative unknowns in each squad respectively, a potential standout player is Baktiyar Zaynutdinov- the 20-year-old midfielder has 3 goals in 4 appearances for Astana this season and 3 goals in 6 caps for his country. He has burst onto the scene and could make a difference in a game like this.
Last Meeting: Latvia 1-1 Kazakhstan (Karasausks; Zaynutdinov)
Andorra v Georgia
Here we see a struggling Andorra side take on group leaders Georgia, with a big performance needed by Andorra to come away with anything it would seem. The hosts have 2 points from their opening 4 games in this competition, scoring 1 and conceding 8 in the process. Georgia have won all 4 of their games so far, scoring 9 and yet to concede. The form book suggests an easy away win however nothing is guaranteed in football and we could yet see somewhat of an upset.
Valeri Qazaishvilli of Georgia scored a brace in the last meeting between these two sides, and has 10 goals this season for San Jose Earthquakes in the MLS and will be the player to watch in this game.
Last Meeting: Georgia 3-0 Andorra (Qazaishvilli x2, Kankava)
San Marino v Moldova
San Marino are notorious for their dreadful record in International football and their form so far in the Nations League has not been at all surprising. They are currently on a run of 25 consecutive defeats stretching back to 2014. The visitors are having a decent run of spell considering their stature within the international scene, having lost only once in their last 5 games. Moldova have given themselves a fighting chance with their results so far, 5 points from their opening 4 games means a victory here would put them in the mix to get out of this group.
Alexandru Epureanu is a key figure for the Moldovan national team, they have kept 3 clean sheets from their 4 games so far and the Istanbul Basaksehir captain has played a huge part in this. He has amassed 84 caps for his country and although this could be a very quiet night for him defensively I still expect him to be the one to watch.
Last Meeting: Moldova 2-0 San Marino (Ginsari x2)
Luxembourg v Belarus
The top two sides in this group clash tonight with top spot and promotion up for grabs. Both sides are in good form going into this game, the hosts have taken 9 points from a possible 12 so far scoring 10 goals in the process and only conceding once. Belarus are on 8 points and are still unbeaten in this group, and are also yet to concede. The winners of this game will be firmly in the driving seat for promotion so there is a lot at stake.
Luxembourg's Danel Sinani will be looking to maintain his goalscoring form in this fixture, he has 3 goals in 4 Nations League games so far and will be the one to watch here.
Last Meeting: Belarus 1-0 Luxembourg (Saroka)