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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Croatia set to stretch clear at top of Group I

Croatia's Ivan Perisic celebrates his winner against Spain
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World Cup qualifying, from 5pm Sunday

Croatia are exerting a firm grip on Group I after taking 13 points from a possible 15 and can stretch their lead at the top by beating second-placed Iceland in Reykjavik.

Iceland were the surprise package at Euro 2016 and they are making a decent fist of World Cup qualifying, taking ten points from 15.

However, they lost 2-0 to Croatia in Zagreb last November without getting a shot on target and are in for another tough match despite the absence through injury of key Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

Iceland have failed to impress against some of the smaller teams. They needed two injury-time goals to scrape a 3-2 success at home to Finland and required a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty to secure a 2-1 victory away to new boys Kosovo.

Croatia were far more convincing against the Kosovans, winning 6-0 in a game played in Albania, and came through a key test in March when defeating Ukraine 1-0.

Iceland are usually strong at home but summer conditions are unlikely to faze the visitors with unbroken sunshine and temperatures of 13C forecast.

They possess the better individual players and look attractively priced at odds-against.

Israel rely a lot on their home results and look a solid bet to dispatch Albania in Haifa.

Albania acquitted themselves well in a tough group at Euro 2016, finishing third on three points, but they have regressed in World Cup qualifying and are on a three-match losing sequence.

They lost 3-0 at home to Israel in November and look out of the running four points behind Spain and Italy.

Finishing in the top two will be tough but Israel are on course to improve on the fourth place they achieved in Euro 2016 qualifying.

Spain are Italy are on three-match winning streaks and are in a head-to-head scrap to win the group.

They should add to their tallies with Spain highly likely to win in Macedonia and Italy red-hot favourites at home to Liechtenstein.

1pt 11-10 Ladbrokes
1pt 6-5 bet365

Macedonia v Spain team news
Darko Velkovski and Boban Nikolov have dropped down to the Under-21 squad for this summer's European Championship and 17-year-olds Jani Atanasov and Elif Elmas hope to make senior debuts.

Champions League starters Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos and Isco come back into contention after being rested for the 2-2 draw at home to Colombia.

Italy v Liechtenstein team news
Defenders Alessio Romagnoli and Emerson Palmieri and midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti have withdrawn with injuries.

No new injuries have been reported but goalkeeper Thomas Hobi, defender Jens Hofer and midfielders Livio Meier and Fabio Wolfinger stand by to make their senior debuts.

Iceland were the surprise package at Euro 2016 and they are making a decent fist of World Cup qualifying
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