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Weblog: The football punter

Belgium class can tell in Scotland friendly

International friendly
Sky Sports Main Event, 7.45pm Friday


Belgium's so-called golden generation managed only bronze at the World Cup and may be running out of chances to win a major tournament. But they looked a strong side in the Russia 2018 finals and should be far too strong for Scotland in a friendly at Hampden Park.

The next major target for the Belgians is Euro 2020, but they would also expect to be strong contenders for the inaugural Nations League, having been drawn in a soft qualifying section alongside Switzerland and Iceland.

Only one of the three teams will qualify for next summer's Nations League finals and Belgium will be looking to get off to a flying start when they face Iceland in Reykjavik next Tuesday.

Head coach Roberto Martinez may bear the Iceland match in mind when selecting a team to face the Scots, but even a second-string side should be capable of registering a comfortable victory.

Belgium's fringe players showed their worth at the World Cup by defeating England 1-0 in the last of their group matches.

The Red Devils should have an easier task against the Scots, who do not appear to have progressed since failing to qualify for the World Cup.

Alex McLeish is four games into his second spell as Scotland manager and has made a poor start, winning one match and losing three.

And he approaches the Belgium match with an understrength squad due to the absences of key players Oli McBurnie, Matt Ritchie, Matt Phillips and Tom Cairney.

McBurnie and Cairney could be stars of Scotland's future and may yet have a major influence on their Nations League campaign, which begins with a home match against Albania on Monday.

Scotland might fancy their chances of securing top spot in their Nations League group at the expense of Albania and Israel, but their longer-term ambition is to narrow the gap significantly to the continent's top teams.

The Belgium match will be a good barometer of how much work they have to do and it may not make pretty viewing for the home supporters.

The Red Devils will have to make do without injured star Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard's minutes may be rationed with Iceland in mind but it is virtually impossible for Martinez to select a weak Belgian team.

Belgium should run out easy victors and there is value is siding with them to cover a one-goal Asian handicap deficit, ensuring stakes returned if they win by a single goal and a profit if they succeed by two or more.

Recommendation
Belgium -1 on Asian handicap

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Match in Focus

15:00 Sa 24Nov

Watford v Liverpool

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • The corresponding fixture finished 3-3 last season
Expert verdict
Watford remain in contention for a spot in the top eight and could frustrate highflying Liverpool. The Hornets have already beaten Tottenham at home this season and have six league wins to their name. Two of Liverpool’s three stalemates this term have come away from home.