A night that was seemingly going to end with Croatia sat top of Group I turned somewhat sour with just minutes remaining as Ante Čačić surrendered a goal lead against Finland on Friday night. That 1-1 draw means that, even with a win here, Croatia are unlikely to finish top of the pile. Nevertheless, their hopes of reaching Russia next summer are far from over; they must at least draw in Kiev in order to secure a play-off spot. Ukraine are in a similar position; they’re level with Croatia on points, but, as a result of both the head-to-head and goal difference, they must win this match in order to stand any chance of reaching the finals.
As far as results go, it was Ukraine who gained the upper-hand on Friday night with their win over Kosovo, and so it is the hosts who should be coming here in better spirits. With this in mind, coupled with the fact that Croatia haven’t travelled so well in recent times, 15/8 about a home win catches the eye.
It’s not been the smoothest of campaigns as far as Ukraine are concerned but they are still very much in the hunt. Coming off the back of a win on the road is a positive, as is their record on home soil. Andriy Shevchenko’s side are unbeaten at home during this campaign, winning three and drawing one. Defensively, Shevchenko’s side have been solid on their own patch, conceding just one goal and keeping three clean sheets. Against a Croatian side that really hasn’t delivered the goods on the road during qualifying, it’s very easy to see the Ukrainians enjoying another good night at NSC Olimpiyskiy.
As touched on above, even though Croatia are a side blessed with some very gifted players, none more so than the Real Madrid maestro Luka Modric, for one reason or another, they’ve failed to get going when playing away from home in recent times. Ante Čačić’s side have recently lost to both Turkey and Iceland away from home in this group, failing to score, and generally under-performing on both occasions. With this in mind, it’s hard to see just how they justify even narrow favouritism ahead of this fixture
PREDICTION;BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE