The Premier League has just begun, the transfer window is shut and now just as the season is getting some momentum, here comes international week to go and ruin it all.
Of all the two-week gaps where domestic action is shelved for the international calendar, this one is without doubt the most annoying, with the premature end of top-flight action before it has barely started the equivalent of being given your presents on Christmas Day and then being told you can’t play with them on Boxing Day.
Something needs to be done about it, but this is the hand everyone has been dealt and one man who probably won’t be complaining is Roy Hodgson, who begins his first qualifying campaign as England manager when the Three Lions travel to Moldova as the road to Brazil 2014 gets underway.
Hodgson had the luxury of being parachuted in once qualification had been secured for Euro 2012 following the acrimonious departure of Fabio Capello in February, but after getting a free pass from the press and fans alike in Poland and Ukraine, the former Fulham boss is unlikely to get such an easy ride as he puts his own stamp on the national side.
The Moldovans haven’t scored in five games, but we aren’t talking games with the top nations here: Georgia, Belarus, Venezuela, El Salvador and Albania are the sides Moldova have failed to net against.
England were poor at Euro 2012, but seemed to escape the sort of serious criticism that would have been aimed at Capello had he served up similar displays (the Italian would have been slaughtered for that quarter-final performance against Italy). As such, Hodgson is under pressure to make the team easier on the eye and more expansive, which, if you’ve ever watched a Roy Hodgson team, you will know is a big ask.
An easy group will help, and having been drawn with Montenegro, Poland, San Marino and Ukraine as well as Moldova, there are no excuses for failure.
Before a home clash with Ukraine, the trip to Moldova on Friday represents a great chance to get off to a winning start. Odds of 7/25 show how likely that is, with the Moldovans at 9/1 and the draw at 17/4.
England are unbeaten in 90 minutes under Hodgson and actually haven’t been beaten competitively since the 4-1 hammering by Germany at the 2010 World Cup. One thing is for sure: that is not going to change here.
Moldova are among the minnows of European football and their record is dreadful, whichever way you look at it. Since thrashing San Marino (who doesn’t do that?) the Moldovans haven’t scored in five games, but we aren’t talking games with the top nations here: Georgia, Belarus, Venezuela, El Salvador and Albania are the sides Moldova have failed to net against, which makes you wonder why they are bothering.
Since the start of 2011, Moldova have won just two of 14 games (San Marino and Andorra) and they won’t be beating England.
In fact, I don’t even think they will be scoring and the 4/5 on England to win to nil should be like buying money. England have kept four clean sheets in seven games under Hodgson and the ex-West Brom boss will keep his safety first policy away from home, even against poor opposition.
But I wouldn’t expect an England landslide, so the 2/1 on the Three Lions to win a game of under 2.5 goals might be worth an outside punt.
That has been the case in three of England’s five wins under Hodgson and with injuries to Wayne Rooney and Andy Carroll, England look light up front with Jermain Defoe, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge the only attacking options in the squad. It might not be pretty, but England can get job the done with the minimum of fuss.
New customers can register here to claim a free £20 bet or click here to see all our World Cup qualifier odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwin