Spain are on the verge of qualifying from their group, having taken a three point lead over Italy last month. That’s put them on the verge of a place in Russia, but the three point gap between them means they’re not completely certain of a place at the World Cup. Can they move one step closer with a victory over Albania this week?
The hosts are obviously heavy favourites to pull off a result, especially given that they come in to this game with an unbeaten home record in World Cup qualifiers. In fact, their last defeat in World Cup qualifying overall came back in the 90s, so it’s difficult to see past the 2010 world champions in this clash.
Albania may have qualified for the Euros last year, but they’ve barely been close to contending for a play-off spot, with Spain and Italy to contend with. However, the visitors have been holding their own in their campaign, losing three games, two of those against Spain and Italy. They were heavily beaten 3-0 by Israel, but the Albanians seem to be able to organise themselves for these big games. They showed that by staying in contention at the Euros last year, finishing third in their group.
The visitors have a solid away record too, with just five defeats on the road in the last four and a half years. Of those losses, four were by a single goal, while they lost 2-0 away to Italy. The Albanians travelled to Portugal, Serbia, Denmark and Armenia in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and kept a clean sheet in every game, so they’re obviously tough to break down. When you consider that Real are without an experienced out and and out striker this week, they’re going to find goals tough to come by.
We think Isco will play a key role in unlocking Albania, especially after his double for Real Madrid last weekend. The playmaker scored three times for Spain in the last international break, while he’s got four goals in just three starts in this campaign. His good form has booked him a place in this side, and we’re backing him to score any time at 1.83 with bet365.
However, we can’t see too many goals for Spain, who are looking light up front for this clash. With Albania seeing under 3.5 goals in their last 17 World Cup qualifiers, and in all of their last 15 competitive defeats, we’re backing Spain to win and under 3.5 goals in this game at 2.1 with bet365.