The European Championships begin this Friday night and Will Burns provides a Group E preview and his recommendations for the best bets for the group.
BELGIUM – ITALY – REPUBLIC OF IRELAND – SWEDEN
13th June: Republic of Ireland v Sweden (17:00 BST)
13th June: Belgium v Italy (20:00 BST)
17th June: Italy v Sweden (14:00 BST)
18th June: Republic of Ireland v Belgium (14:00 BST)
22nd June: Italy v Republic of Ireland (20:00 BST)
22nd June: Sweden v Belgium (20:00 BST)
BELGIUM (2.25 at SkyBet): On paper, Belgium have possibly the best squad with the most individual talent bar none. From top to bottom, some world class players at club level. In goal, you have arguably the best keeper in the world in Thibaut Courtois. In defence, you have Tottenham pair Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, a duo that could have won the league title this year, had it not of been for that pesky Leicester!
In midfield, Axel Witsel, Raida Nainggolan will play in the holding role with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Liverpool pair Divock Origi and Christian Benetke, Marseille’s Michy Batshuayi and Atletico’s emerging talent Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco all attacking for the Red Devils.
The side have been ranked the best team in the world for a large part of the past year but head coach Marc Wilmots will have one worry, the defence. Alderweireld will hold in centre-defence, however an injury to Vincent Kompany means that Thomas Vermaelen or the inexperienced Jason Denayer will play alongside him. His partner at Spurs, Vertonghen will play left-back.
I mainly see Italy vs. Belgium being a stand-off and low scoring draw with Ireland and Sweden just making up the numbers. Belgium have the ability to score more goals than the Italians so I see them topping the group.
TEAM TOP GOALSCORERS
BELGIUM – KEVIN DE BRUYNE (6.00 at Bet365): I have picked the in-form Manchester City winger ahead of Lukaku, Hazard, Origi, Benetke, Batshuayi and Ferreira-Carrasco. The main reason I choose De Bruyne is that, in club football, he has been in startling form the past few months including three goals in the last four games.
I also fail to see Lukaku or Benteke collecting many chances as the ‘lumping in the box’ tactic is rarely used by the Belgians. On the edge of the area will see De Bruyne, Hazard and Ferreira-Carrasco test the goalkeepers but De Bruyne will prove to be the most accurate out of the lot.
ITALY – EDER (9.00 at Betfair): This is a huge price for the Brazilian-born striker although there are plenty of worthy contenders in this market. Ciro Immobile is valued at a big 11/1 (Boyle Sports) and of course the favourite Graziano Pelle is 7/2 at Betfair. Eder has great ability to score goals and I see this price too large to ignore for a player that should start due to his industrious nature coupled with his recent form that makes him a good selection for Antonio Conte.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND – SHANE LONG (4.50 at Bet365): Dynamic, fast with a really huge leap, I see the Southampton striker causing a few problems in this tournament. Possible to breach the Swedish and Belgian defence, Long is the best bet here at 7.2 with Bet365.
SWEDEN – ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (1.53 at Ladbrokes): Note the short price, but with the options in this market being John Guidetti, Marcus Berg and Sebastien Larsson… is there really a contest here?
Belgium Top Team Goalscorer – Kevin De Bruyne (6.00 at Bet365)
Ireland Top Team Goalscorer – Shane Long (4.50 at Bet365)
Belgium/Italy Dual Forecast (2.25 at Betfair)