763 days after playing Nepal in Canberra, the Socceroos are returning home for a massive World Cup Qualifier this Thursday night.
They will take on Asian heavyweights Saudi Arabia at CommBank Stadium in Western Sydney with top spot in Group B on the line as the two nations chase automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.
We’ve run through the markets and have a comprehensive match preview so read on and find our best bets.
October’s international window produced a mixed bag of results for the Socceroos over Matchdays 3 and 4.
Forced to “host” Oman in Qatar, the Socceroos came away with a 3-1 win with goals from Awer Mabil, Martin Boyle and Mitch Duke to extend their winning streak to 11 international matches.
Their trip to Japan saw that streak grind to a halt as an Aziz Behich own goal consigned the side to a 2-1 defeat and kept Japan alive in the race for an automatic spot in the World Cup.
Saudi Arabia stayed perfect in Group B and won their seventh and eighth World Cup Qualifier in a row after defeating Japan 1-0 and China 3-2.
Sitting three points clear of the second placed Australians and six points clear of Oman and Japan, Saudi Arabia can all but book their ticket to Qatar with a win in this match and will have plenty of motivation for this match.
Head to Head History
This will be the third time that Australia and Saudi Arabia have been drawn in the same group for World Cup Qualifying and the sixth time that they have faced off since Australia was admitted to the AFC in 2006.
Saudi Arabia’s lone win over the Aussies came in the 1997 Confederations Cup and since then, the matches between these nations have all followed a similar pattern.
All five matches have seen four or more goals scored and the Socceroos have won four times with the other fixture ending in a 2-2 draw.
While there may be a handful of jokes about Graham Arnold opting for a pragmatic, results first approach to matches, this is a side that can score for fun when it wants to.
Saudi Arabia’s backline has kept six clean sheets in their last eight matches but did just concede twice to a Chinese team that is not exactly boasting an all star attacking lineup.
Add in the atmosphere in the stadium as the Socceroos return home, and we should see the team play into the emotion of the game and look to go on the attack.
They may need to do that after Japan exposed some vulnerabilities in Australia’s defence that you can count on Saudi Arabia to go after.
With the market favouring a low scoring contest, take the odds on offer and look for a high scoring affair.
Back Over 2.5 Goals @ $2.20
Arnold will welcome back some local talent into his squad with Melbourne City trio Andrew Nabbout, Jamie Maclaren and Matthew Leckie set to bolster the squad for this fixture.
Maclaren looms as the primary option to lead the line and if he can replicate his A-League form for the national team, he will also be an excellent Anytime Goalscorer bet.
Considering this is shaping up as a high scoring affair, it’s worth having an insurance play on one of the Saudi attackers to break through as well.
Sami Al-Najei was very impressive scoring twice against China and I’ll back the Al-Nassr player to cause plenty of headaches for the Socceroos here.
Back Jamie Maclaren Anytime Goalscorer
Back Sami Al-Najei Anytime Goalscorer
Sometimes you have to follow the stats, other times you have to back the story.
In this instance, both of them line up with the same bet for the World Cup Qualifier.
I’ll back the Socceroos to get by Saudi Arabia as the home ground advantage gets them over the line in a tough contest.
SGM: Australia to Win and Both Teams to Score @ $4.35