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International predictions: Scotland to end 22 years of hurt, Northern Ireland to edge past Slovakia

Serbia vs Scotland and Northern Ireland vs Slovakia to be shown free-to-air on November 12; Both decisive matches kick off at 7.45pm on Sky Pick and Sky Challenge respectively, with the winners qualifying for next summer's rescheduled UEFA Euro 2020 tournament

John McGinn is a 6/1 shot to score anytime
Image: John McGinn is tipped up at 6/1 to score anytime for Scotland away to Serbia

Our betting expert Jones Knows makes his predictions for a bumper night of international football on Thursday - can Scotland and Northern Ireland do it?

Serbia vs Scotland, Thursday 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports Football and free-to-air on Sky Pick

Serbia vs Scotland

One thing you can almost guarantee from a play-off fixture of such nature is tension. It's not a time for risks. We're likely to see games of chess rather than basketball-like football.

When analysing the results from the last round of one-legged qualifying and similar fixtures such as the first leg of a play-off for a spot at the World Cup or European Championship in the last 20 years, games are averaging just 1.7 goals per game. Included in that collection of results was Scotland's 0-0 draw with Israel - a game that Steve Clarke's team edged on penalties.

Scotland are in the midst of an eight-match unbeaten run (W6 D2), their best international sequence in 32 years.

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But this is a huge test, despite Serbia being on a run of just one win in six - that only win coming vs Norway in their play-off semi-final. A low-scoring draw would be a fantastic result for Clarke and his boys - I think they can get it and take it to penalties. A Scotland win via that method is a 14/1 shot - a price juicy enough for a poke.

Who could step up and be a national hero then? It takes a certain type to do so. Having no fear is a prerequisite but also someone who is oozing confidence. With those factors in mind, I'm looking at John McGinn's price to score anytime as a main bet to focus on.

Under Clarke in the European Championship qualification process, McGinn averaged 2.8 shots on goal per game when starting. Clarke has deployed him in a much more attacking role than Aston Villa do, and he's repaid the faith by scoring five times since Clarke took the job. He heads to this winner-takes-all tie in arguably the form of his life, having played every minute of Villa's impressive start to the season. The 6/1 for him to score is a tempter.

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JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 1-1 (13/2 with Sky Bet - Scotland to win on penalties 14/1)

ALSO LOOK OUT FOR: John McGinn to score anytime (6/1 with Sky Bet)

Northern Ireland vs Slovakia, Thursday 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League and free-to-air on Sky Challenge

Northern Ireland vs Slovakia

When this Northern Ireland team need a performance, they usually deliver.

This group has been through a lot together and come across more like a club side than a national team. For the majority of the squad, playing for their country is their bread and butter.

The basis of the squad that qualified for Euro 2016 and progressed through the group stages there are still intact - and there is some unfinished business on their agenda, having missed out at the 2018 World Cup due to a controversial penalty award against Switzerland.

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Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Stuart Dallas, Jamal Lewis, Craig Cathcart, Jonny Evans and Steven Davis provide a strong spine that can be relied upon to keep out similarly ranked opposition like Slovakia, who were fortunate to progress past Republic of Ireland in their previous play-off match.

One goal just might be enough, looking at Slovakia's defensive record. They have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 15 competitive away games, since November 2014 - the only UEFA nation on a longer run without a competitive clean sheet away from home are Armenia (21 games).

Slovakia remain without the injured Martin Dubravka, too. A big miss.

It won't be pretty or entertaining, but an edgy home win is the play, with perhaps one of the old boys like Davis or Evans getting their moment of national recognition by netting the winner.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 1-0 (5/1 with Sky Bet)

England vs Republic of Ireland, Thursday 8pm

Memories are very short when it comes to managers at the top level. There isn't much wriggle room for Gareth Southgate over the next few fixtures after the Denmark defeat.

Despite beating Belgium recently, is he really getting the best out of an outstanding crop of English talent? He could do with reminding a few naysayers that he is the man for the job over the next week. That's why I'd be surprised if he experiments too much in key areas for this friendly.

England manager Gareth Southgate during the friendly win over Wales
Image: England manager Gareth Southgate during the friendly win over Wales

England are the 1/3 favourites with Sky Bet to win at Wembley, while the Republic of Ireland are at 17/2 and the draw 15/4.

Those prices look about right to me as I'd be in no rush to take on England, mostly due to Ireland's lack of goal threat. They have scored just twice in their last eight competitive fixtures and the retirement of David McGoldrick doesn't help in that regard.

Meanwhile, England are unbeaten in their last nine friendly games (W6 D3) since a 3-2 defeat against France in June 2017, conceding just two goals in those nine games.

An England win to nil looks the obvious but solid play.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 2-0 (7/1 with Sky Bet)

Wales vs USA, Thursday 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports Mix

Wales vs USA

Ryan Giggs' absence has to come into consideration when assessing the outcome against the USA in Swansea. The Wales boss won't be in the dugout for this friendly or for the Nations League games against the Republic of Ireland and Finland.

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Aaron Ramsey is missing due to a thigh injury, whilst Gareth Bale still doesn't look himself despite more game-time at Tottenham.

USA coach Gregg Berhalter has left all his MLS players at home, so it will be an inexperienced side full of youth and energy. I think they can get a result.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 1-1 (6/1 with Sky Bet)

Pitch to Post International Preview: Jamie Redknapp on Joe Gomez's injury, England's areas to improve; plus Scotland and N.Ireland play-off build-up

In an international week special, Jamie Redknapp joins Kate Burlaga to react to Joe Gomez's injury news and, along with Peter Smith, analyses where England must strengthen ahead of next year's European Championships.

Plus, Sky Sports News reporters Charles Paterson and Paul Gilmour have a detailed lowdown on the challenges Scotland and N.Ireland face this week in their play-offs.

Listen to the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Podcast on: Spotify | Apple | Castbox

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