Both Bulgaria and Croatia will meet up for a chance to remain unbeaten in the ECQ. The soccer betting odds favor the Croatians away from home, but they'll have to show some grit to get a result.
Wherever we look, the Croatians are favored, but the soccer betting lines are indeed very close, which means there shouldn't be much separating these teams at all on Friday.
For now, Croatia is listed as a +125 favorite, with the Bulgarians priced at +210 to win at home and a draw quoted at +220 soccer odds.
Heading into Friday's match, the Bulgarians are ranked #46 in the FIFA World rankings. They've made a considerable leap, jumping 26 spots in the latest edition of the rankings, so this is clearly a team on the rise.
In their first qualifying match, Bulgaria was able to overcome Azerbaijan 2-1, getting their campaign off to a flying start in the process.
Getting three points early on will be huge in the Bulgarians' quest to earn a spot in the big dance, as they have a tough group to deal with. Group H features the likes of Italy and Croatia, so getting results against the lesser teams will be pivotal to their chances of progression.
Looking at Bulgaria's squad for the qualifiers, we see some names that stick out, though for the most part it's a relatively inexperienced group. Ivelin Popov is only 26-years-old, but the striker has already made 48 caps for the country, scoring eight goals, so it's clear he'll be the one to watch for the hosts on Friday.
Nikolay Bodurov will be manning the defensive line for the Bulgarians. He plies his trade with Fulham and has made 25 caps for his country. There are a few other players to keep an eye out for, namely Dynamo Moscow midfielder Stanislav Manolev and Celtic midfielder Aleksandar Tonev. Bulgaria needs everyone to step if they're to get even a point against Croatia.
Ranked #19 in the world and having already gotten off to an ideal start in the group, Croatia will enter Friday's match as the favorite.
The Croatians got goals from Luka Modric and Andrej Kramaric in the 2-0 victory over Malta, a win that puts them in an already favorable position in a relatively difficult group.
Modric is just one of many excellent players within the Croatia camp. He's been in terrific form for Real Madrid and is poised to carry over that form for his country. We're also looking out for captain Darijo Srna, the captain who's made 118 appearances and scores 21 goals, as well as Dejan Lovren, Ivan Rakitic, and Mario Mandzukic.
There's others, including Ivan Perisic, Mateo Kovacic, Ivica Olic and Nikica Jelavic, which just goes to show what this team is capable of doing if on form.
Playing away to Bulgaria figures to be a lot more difficult than being at home versus Malta, so Modric and company have to be ready for a dogfight. Will they step up and move to six points in the group?
We certainly don't see Bulgaria getting rolled over on Friday, but in the end we do feel as if Croatia is worthy of getting your backing with your soccer picks.
These Croatians have some grit to their play and know it will take more than just superior talent to get a victory. We think they'll show up and be ready to fight, leading to a narrow victory.
At the end of the day, we look for the creativity and playmaking ability of Modric and Rakitic to play a major role, while Croatia also has some natural goalscorers like Mandzukic, Olic and Jelavic. They're strong defensively as well, so we're going to roll with the away side with our sports picks.
Free Soccer Pick: Bulgaria 1 Croatia 2