Georgia are looking to return in contention for the top two places following the narrow defeats to Croatia and Israel, and they now have a great chance to close the gap behind their rivals. Latvia, on the other hand, have been pretty pathetic of late and they don’t look capable of stopping Temuri Katsbaia’s side.
Georgia on the uptrend
Georgia have been showing a lot of potential over the last few qualifying campaigns, constantly closing the gap behind top European sides, but it was when talented Temuri Ketsbaia took over the reigns that the team’s uptrend in fortunes really started. The Georgian legend arrived to the national team bench after leading minnows Anorthosis to the Champions League group stage and he didn’t need a lot of time to prove his coaching credentials. Georgia did well to bring one point from Greece and to hold Israel to a goalless draw, but they were very unlucky not to have taken all three points from Latvia. Nevertheless, the team more than made up for that slip up by beating mighty Croatia at home, with narrow defeats in Israel and Croatia proving that Georgia have come a long way in the Euro 2012 qualifiers. The team are now four points behind Croatia and Israel, but are still in the race for the second place in the group, so there are no doubts they will be very motivated to win this game.
Lasha Salukvadze is the only absentee at the moment, meaning that Temuri Ketsbaia will have virtually full squad to choose from.
Latvia on the downtrend
After clinching a shock qualification to Euro 2004, Latvia have done little to build on that success and they have never been even close to making it to the final tournament since. The team have been utterly disappointing in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, with the win over Malta their only notable result, and as I have already mentioned Latvia were extremely lucky to hold Georgia to 1:1 draw at home after scoring the equalizer deep into the injury time. Following the double defeat to Israel, Latvia lost to Austria and Finland in preparation for the final stage of the qualifying campaign, so it is little wonder they are considered major underdogs in this clash. With Georgia not only technically superior but also boosted by the big support from the stands, Latvia have little to hope for from this match.
Key striker Artoms Rudnevs and back-up keeper Aleksandrs Kolinko miss out through injury.
Georgia are slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with at home and their superiority over Latvia should be even more evident with the big support from the stands. Unlike the hosts, Latvia will have nothing to play for here, so they should be happy to avoid a heavy defeat.
Our prediction: Home win
Odds: 1.80 (4/5)
Bookmaker: Stan James