Three Euro 2016 matches on Monday featuring Spain and the first matches in Group E
Spain v Czech Republic 2pm
Strangely for a team going in to the tournament looking for their third consecutive European Championship, Spain are surrounded by doubt, especially in midfield and up front. The quality of some of the players is the envy of most managers and Vicente del Bosque normally manages to get the best out of them (the 2014 World Cup notwithstanding). Spain can struggle for goals, with Del Bosque often playing Cesc Fàbregas as a false 9 – although there is also Álvaro Morata, Aritz Aduriz or Nolito to choose from up front.
A well organised side the Czechs typically outperform expectations. The Czechs’ flexibility is their strength, the team equally adept at pressing high against weaker opponents and sitting back to defend against so-called better sides. The team is still a bit too reliant on the veteran Tomas Rosicky and can fail to break down teams in his absence (although they lost only one of five qualifiers without him).
Spain are 1/2 for this game, which looks very short. I like Czech republic +1 at 6/4 with BetVictor. We have the shock and the draw onside with us
Republic of Ireland v Sweden 5pm
Martin O’Neill’s side are more positive than they were towards the end of Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign, and the new coach has used the attacking Robbie Brady as a left-back in a 4-2-3-1 formation. This is an extremely hard-working side and Shane Long’s speed and aerial power up front will trouble most defences.
Weaknesses. O’Neill’s biggest problem is in central defence, where Richard Keogh could start with John O’Shea
Erik Hamren promised more attacking football from Sweden when he took over in 2009 but recently he seems to have reverted to a more solid 4-4-2 formation. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still one of the best players in the world and absolutely crucial to Sweden’s chances. Scored 11 of 19 goals in qualifying. The lack of speed in defence is a concern as Andreas Granqvist is not the quickest of centre-backs but he could play alongside the more mobile 21-year-old Victor Nilsson Lindelof.
With Belgium and Italy to come for both, defeat here would be a terrible result. I expect a cagey tight draw at 21/10 with BetVictor
Belgium v Italy 8pm
Belgium have been ranked the best team in the world for a large part of the past year and Marc Wilmots has arguably the best squad in the tournament. Their front line is bursting with young, attacking talent. Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Divock Origi and Yannick Carrasco are all options for the front four positions. Vincent Kompany’s injury means Thomas Vermaelen or the inexperienced Jason Denayer will play alongside Toby Aldeweireld
Antonio Conte has tried all sorts of formations in qualifying and recent friendlies, from 3-5-2 and 3-4-3 to a conventional 4-4-2. A defence containing the Juve block of Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Berzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will always be extremely difficult to break down. Conte is not blessed with a huge amount of options up front, with the first-choice striker Graziano Pellè struggling to get in to the Southampton team at times this season.
With this a barnstorming first tie in the group for both, avoiding defeat is going to be key. Both should qualify but i expect Italy to play very conservatively here, try and take a draw forward to the next group games. the Draw is 85/40 with BetVictor
Recommendations – all BetVictor
Czech Republic +1 v Spain 6/4
Rep of reland and Sweden to draw 21/10
Belgium and Italy to draw 85/40