International Friendlies: Expect goals in Austria and groans in Estonia
There are plenty of international friendlies to keep an eye on, and Kevin Hatchard believes World Cup hosts Russia will be involved in an exciting game in Austria, and goals will be scarce in the Baltic Cup.
"Russia have been regularly conceding goals in friendlies, while Austria have found a rich vein of form since coach Franco Foda took charge."
World Cup hosts to play out a thriller
Austria v Russia
Wednesday May 30, 19:45
It's hard to remember a World Cup where there has been so little enthusiasm regarding the host nation's chances of making any impact whatsoever on the tournament, and it appears Russia have failed to make the most of their preparation time. In defence, no quality replacements have been found for the Berezutsky twins, so 38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich has come out of retirement. At the other end of the field, Zenit striker Aleksandr Kokorin has been ruled out because of injury. The attacking burden may rest on the shoulders of Krasnodar striker Fedor Smolov.
Russia haven't won any of their last five friendlies. They lost to France, Brazil and Argentina, and at the Confederations Cup they lost two of their three group games, with only New Zealand succumbing to them.
Austria will miss the finals, but under German coach Franco Foda they have started to hit form. They have won their last five games (three friendlies and two World Cup qualifiers), and they have only lost one of their last 11 games.
One thing I'm very surprised by is that Over 2.5 Goals is trading at [2.48] here. Austria have rattled in 13 goals in their last five outings, and Russia have leaked three goals in each of their last three matches. Five of Russia's last seven friendlies have featured three goals or more.
Baltic rivals to struggle in attack
Estonia v Lithuania
Wednesday May 30, 17:30
This World Cup business is all very well, but Estonia are taking on Lithuania in the criminally undervalued Baltic Cup on Wednesday evening.
Neither team has a particularly sparkling recent record. Estonia's only wins since the start of November were against Malta, Vanuatu and Fiji, although in fairness they did impressively edge out Cyprus 3-2 in a World Cup qualifier in September.
Lithuania won 1-0 in Armenia last time out, but were smacked 4-0 by Georgia three days earlier, so they aren't exactly consistent. They struggle to score goals outside Lithuania - they haven't scored more than once in an away game since a 2-0 win in San Marino in 2014, and they have drawn a blank in five of their last seven road matches.
Estonia have scored just two goals in their last four matches, and only managed a goal apiece against Vanuatu and New Caledonia. They have however kept clean sheets in four of their last six games.
With both teams misfiring, I fancy backing Under 2.5 Goals. At time of writing there isn't much liquidity in the market, but I'd expect unders to trade at about [1.85], so if that proves to be the case, go for it.
Back Over 2.5 Goals in Austria v Russia at [2.52]
Back Under 2.5 Goals in Estonia v Lithuania at around [1.85]