Malta v Northern Ireland
Sunday 30 May, 17:00
Live on Sky Sports
Malta can punch above their weight
Malta had a relatively successful Nations League campaign as they finished as runners-up in Group 1 of League D – losing just one of their six outings.
In World Cup Qualifying, they have managed just one point from their three matches to date, but given expectation levels, that’s certainly not below par.
This is the first of three friendlies that they will play over the course of the next week or so, and head coach, Devis Mangia, will be looking to build some momentum ahead of a winnable clash with Cyprus in their next qualifier.
A look into the future for Northern Ireland
It must be painful for Ian Baraclough to know that his 90 minute record as manager of the national team is played 11, drawn four and lost seven.
This is a fantastic opportunity to get that elusive first win though, as their opponents are ranked 175th in the world.
These two friendlies against Malta and the Ukraine will see some of the younger members of the squad the chance to shine, as the likes of captain, Steven Davis, have been left at home.
Given that Norn have only played two World Cup Qualifiers thus far – a defeat in Italy and a draw with Bulgaria – they are still in with a shot of finishing second, if they can just get their act together.
At time of writing, the liquidity isn’t great on the Betfair Exchange, so I will use the Sportsbook as a guide price.
Malta are 5.04/1, the draw is 4.3310/3 and Northern Ireland are 1.558/15.
There is no home advantage here, as the fixture is being played in Austria, however I still wouldn’t want to back Baraclough’s side at those odds.
A draw wouldn’t surprise me at all, especially given the Irish’s struggles in front of goal. If you can get around 4.67/2 on the Exchange, I would certainly consider taking it.
The same applies to the Goal markets when it comes to Exchange liquidity, so the prices on the Sportsbook are 1.538/15 for Over 2.5 and 2.4529/20 for Under.
The latter is of interest to me, as Northern Ireland are the odds-on favourites, but they don’t score many goals.
I would actually expect that to shorten up slightly as kick-off approaches, but even down at 2.35/4, I would still take that price on there to be goal two goals or fewer.
For my Sportsbook Bet Builder, I am going to include both the Draw and Under 2.5 Goals, and combine it with Under 0.5 First Half Goals. The treble pays 10.87.