Turkey will be keen to secure an advantage in front of their passionate and vocal home crowd to give themselves something to defend in the second leg in Croatia.
Guus Hiddink’s men finished a distant second to Germany in Group A on 17 points, two ahead of Belgium. They won four out of their five home matches in qualifying, only losing to the all-conquering Germans and so will be confident of claiming victory on Friday. They can be backed to continue that fine home form at odds of 7/5 (bet365 – £200 free bets).
Croatia have several key injuries in their squad, the most worrying to Mladen Petriă, Ivan Striniă and Niko Kranjčar and Croatia’s best hope may be to try and hold out for a draw. If you want to be bold then 1-1 is available at 11/2 (Ladbrokes – £50 free betting) and could be a good call, although simply backing the draw itself at 11/5 (Paddy Power) is clearly the safer wager.
Croatia will be short on goal threats with Kranjcar – top scorer from qualifying – injured and striker Ivan Kalinic dropped, so manager Slaven Bilic will be hoping the players who do take to the field can do enough to keep them in the game. Croatia have been strong away from home, losing just two of their last eight – one of those to Group F winners, Greece – and so Turkey will be well aware of the test they face.
This will be a tight, cagey contest and we expect the tie will remain in the balance until the second leg on the 15th November. Given Turkey’s poor record outside their own country the onus will be on them to attack and establish a lead and this could leave space for Croatia to attack – the big question is, will they throw caution to the wind or play it safe?