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Euro 2012 qualifying preview: Battle heats up in Group B

6 October 2011 22:26

Russia journey to Slovakia while the Republic of Ireland are in Andorra in Euro 2012 qualifying on Friday, with Group B's fate still up in the air.

Russia top the group on 17 points, with Ireland two points behind in second while Armenia and Slovakia are locked on 14 points in third and fourth place respectively.

Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss has the hardest job out of any of the four managers to secure either top place in the group or a playoff berth, with his side having by far the worst goal difference at -2.

Armenia take on Macedonia on Friday in the group's other game, but with things as they stand there is every chance it could come down to Tuesday's final matches to settle things, with Russia hosting Andorra, Ireland welcoming Armenia and Slovakia away to Macedonia.

Ireland received a boost ahead of their trip to Andorra, with Sunderland defender John O'Shea training with his team-mates on Tuesday after overcoming a knock, while coach Giovanni Trapattoni is confident goalkeeper Shay Given's wrist injury will not keep him out.

Group H is the most open, with Portugal, Denmark and Norway locked on 13 points - although Portugal and Denmark have played one game fewer than Norway.

On Friday, Denmark are in Cyprus and Portugal welcome Iceland.

Group D is another tight one, with France just one point clear of Bosnia and Herzegovina ahead of their clash with Albania in Paris.

Elsewhere in Group D, Bosnia will fancy their chances of keeping the pressure on the French when they host Luxembourg, and Romania take on Belarus in Bucharest.

Italy have already secured their place at Euro 2012, but the Serbia side they meet on Friday in Belgrade will be desperate to try and shore up the playoff berth from Group C.

Serbia are only one point ahead of third-placed Estonia in the race for second place, and with Estonia away at Northern Ireland on Friday, the Serbs would love three points from their meeting with Cesare Prandelli's side.

It is a similar story in Group I, with Spain taking on the Czech Republic already assured of their involvement at Poland and Ukraine.

But the Czechs will be hoping for all three points from the fixture as they look to secure second place, as they hold just a two-point lead over Scotland, who travel to Liechtenstein on Saturday.

England need only a point from their Group G clash with Montenegro in Podgorica to make sure of qualification, while Switzerland are just three points behind Montenegro in third place.

Switzerland meet Wales in Swansea on Friday, and the final destination of second place may be decided on Tuesday, with the Swiss hosting Montenegro in Basel.

Greece play host to Croatia in a crunch Group F clash in Piraeus on Friday, with Croatia leading the group by just one point from 2004 champions Greece.

Both teams are guaranteed second place at worst, but would dearly love to secure qualification by topping the group to avoid the lottery of the playoffs.

Malta travel to Latvia for Friday's other Group F clash.

The Netherlands have secured qualification from Group E, with Sweden and Hungary locked on 18 points in the race for second, although Sweden have a game in hand.

Sweden are 10 goals better off than Hungary, but would like to collect at least a point from their trip to Helsinki as they host the Netherlands on Tuesday in their final game, while Hungary are at home to Finland.

Friday's other Group E match sees the Netherlands play Moldova in Rotterdam.

Turkey host Group A winners Germany, holding just a two-point buffer over Belgium as both teams vie for second place.

Belgium host Kazakhstan in Brussels while Austria are at Azerbaijan in the Group's other two matches.

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