02 September 2020 22:41

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Nations League preview & betting tips: Predictions & best bets for Bulgaria v Rep Ireland & Finland v Wales

Teemu Pukki plans to shoot down Wales after rebuilding his confidence following Norwich's relegation from the Premier League. The Finland striker made a sensational start to life in the top flight last season, scoring six goals in five games as the newly-promoted Canaries began the campaign in promising fashion. But Pukki's problems in front of goal mirrored Norwich's slide down the table, with the 30-year-old netting only twice after Christmas and not once in his final 15 appearances of the season. Norwich were relegated with only 21 points – 13 adrift of second-bottom Watford – and lost all 10 matches played after the coronavirus lockdown. "There was a test of self-confidence," said Pukki, speaking ahead of Finland's Nations League opener against Wales in Helsinki on Thursday.

"Personally, when there are no goals, it's not an easy time for the attacker. My main job is to help the team with goals. Pukki was back among the goals on Norwich's pre-season tour of Germany last month. He scored in wins over Dynamo Dresden and SV Darmstadt to boost his confidence ahead of international duty. "Of course, a couple of goals in training games boosted my mood and self-confidence," said Pukki, who spearheaded Finland's march to the delayed 2020 European Championship with 10 goals.

"They were just training games, but it was important to get goals after a long time. "Now I have full focus on the national team and these games. The Nations League returns on Thursday and Mark Stinchcombe has picked out his best bets for Bulgaria v Rep Ireland and Finland v Wales. Bulgaria v Rep. Ireland Match Odds: Home 9/4 | Draw 2/1 | Away 13/10 Bulgaria arrive here in terrible form with just one win from their last 14 games, losing eight of those. They've failed to score in four of their last five and over the 14 games they've scored just nine goals.

In contrasting style, Ireland have lost just two of their last 15 games, although they've only picked up five wins. Their problem has been scoring goals, as outside of friendlies they've managed just 15 in their last 21 competitive games over the last four years. This will be Stephen Kenny's first game in charge of Ireland but looking at their squad it's difficult to see where the goals will come from. Free football tips for Finland v Wales in the Nations League on Thursday. Best bet Wales begin their Nations League campaign in Finland but it may not be the winning start Ryan Giggs will be hoping for.

Gareth Bale, their most celebrated player, has made the journey to Helsinki but Ramsey's absence is likely to be a huge blow for Giggs's side. The former Arsenal midfielder scored both goals in Wales's last game against Hungary, which secured their qualification for Euro 2020 and he will be difficult to replace. Bale has produced some magical moments in a Wales shirt over the years but his ability to provide more heroics has to be doubtful. The Real Madrid man has played little football in recent months and, while there is no doubting his commitment to the cause, he may not be at the peak of his powers. Wales' chances are further hampered by the fact that Finland are an improving side. Markku Kanerva's men won promotion from the third tier of the Nations League last term after topping a group containing Greece, Hungary and Estonia. Kanerva's side were unbeaten at home in that competition and their only defeats came on trips to Greece and Hungary. Finland won four of their five home matches in that qualification effort and their only loss was a narrow 2-1 defeat to runaway table-toppers Italy. Leverkusen keeper Lukas Hradecky is part of a solid Finnish defensive unit who conceded just two goals in five home Euro 2020 qualifying matches. That solidity may not be tested too often by a depleted Wales side who managed just ten goals in their eight Euro 2020 qualifying contests. Wales are likely to represent a tougher test than most of Finland's recent opponents but the home side are in a good place confidence-wise and their chances of winning their opening Nations League contest may be underplayed by the prices. Not got a bet365 account? Sign up today and get up to £100 in bet credits. Up to £100 in Bet Credits for new customers at bet365. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. MORE FREE BETS Today's top sports betting stories Get the FREE Mirror Football newsletter by email with the day's key headlines and transfer news Sign up Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Invalid Email We've had the traditional Community Shield curtain raiser to the season, everyone's appetite has been whetted for the re-start of Premier League football - so of course we're going to have an international break! England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland are all in action - twice - before domestic football gets underway again. The first action featuring the home nations is on Thursday. Finland vs Wales Sky Sports Main Event and S4C are showing Wales' trip to Helsinki, which kicks off at 7.45pm on Thursday. Finland qualified for Group B by topping Nations League Group C. Finland have an exciting crop of players including Norwich goalscorer Teemu Pukki and Bayer Leverkusen's Lukas Hradecky. Finland have won seven and lost one of their last eight competitive matches at home, that solitary defeat coming against Italy. And Wales have Aaron Ramsey, David Brooks, Neil Taylor and Sam Vokes all missing through injury, leaving Ryan Giggs short in midfield, defence and attack. And if that doesn't all point you in one direction, Wales haven't kicked a ball in anger since last November. Odds of 11/5 with thepools.com on a home win are very, very appealing. Wales, meanwhile, are 11/8 and the draw is 21/10. On the same night, but on a different channel - Sky Sports Football - Stephen Kenny's reign as Ireland boss gets underway in Sofia. But if you haven't got an account yet, thepools.com is offering new customers a great introductory offer! If new customers bet £10 at odds of evens or greater, you get another £10 bet absolutely free. You can bet on any match, any market. Simply log on to thepools.com and register for a new account - you don't need to deposit a penny. The away win is 13/10 with thepools.com. While Bulgaria moved up a Nations League level after finishing second to Norway in Group C, their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign saw them win just one of eight games to finish a distant fourth in a pool featuring England and Czech Republic. A tight, low scoring match looks likely - Under 2.5 goals is as short as 1/2, but Ireland to win to nil is a big 9/4 and that's our tip. The match of the night on Thursday is the Group A curtain raiser between Germany and Spain in Stuttgart (kick-off 7.45pm on Sky Sports Premier League) and something will have to give. But Spanish coach Luis Enrique has named a young and inexperienced squad named for the first two Nations League Group A1 fixtures against Germany and Ukraine and the home team are 7/5 to get their campaign off to a winning start. Finland to win at 11/5 Ireland to win to nil at 9/4 Gareth Bale plays for Wales. Their players play in the Premier League. The Welsh defensive options consist of without-a-club Chris Gunter, Jose-Mourinho-doesn't-like-me Ben Davies, I'm-eleven-years-old Neco Williams and Connor Roberts. Teemu Pukki has shown he's a lethal finisher when in the mood, and their starting goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky is a Bundesliga standout with Bayer Leverkusen. Here's your three best bets for this Nations League Group *checks notes* B4 matchup. I really like this price for what it offers us. The simple fact is this – I can't see the Welsh scoring twice, and I can very easily see the Fins grabbing a goal. Teemu Pukki is the best striker on the pitch in this game, and the Welsh back four really don't have a tonne of experience against crafty top-level players. That, combined with the fact that their surrounds can easily see them fall into the trap of simply expecting to turn up and win, is a real pothole. Many people will take the price about Wales for this, but I would strongly advise against it. 4/7 Finland And Draw Double Chance Bet now My preference for games taking place in this climate where there are extra precautions being taken everywhere is simply to expect fewer goals, and I suspect we'll see a trend emerge soon where traders will adjust to this. You can't train with the same intensity anymore given you need to be exceptionally careful and the general aura around these games is that we're playing in an alternate dimension rather than the norms we're used to. 1/2 Under 2.5 Goals Over/Under 2.5 Goals Bet now Now, this doesn't fit into my narrative at all, and he may not even start given his severe lack of football in the last while, but there's a few other players in this game more likely to score than him, according to the prices. While you can make a case for Pukki, you have to remember that nobody commands the ball more than Bale in any given Welsh game. 6/4 Gareth Bale Anytime Goalscorer Bet now Our 3 best bets for Finland v Wales Double Chance: Finland and the Draw Under 2.5 Goals Gareth Bale to Score Anytime