Given that Malta are ranked 176th in the FIFA world rankings, below the likes of New Caledonia, Guam and American Samoa, people could be forgiven for believing that Scotland are guaranteed three points in their opening World Cup 2018 qualifier.
After all, Gordon Strachan’s Scots are positioned 125 places higher up the football ladder and started 2016 with solid friendly victories over much superior opposition in the Czech Republic and Denmark. They have since understandably suffered away defeats to Italy and France.
It is 2/5 that Scotland defeat Malta, although the last occasion that they opened a qualifying campaign for a major tournament with a victory was when defeating the Faroe Islands 6-0 ahead of Euro 2008.
Since the start of that campaign, Malta have taken part in 52 qualifiers for either a World Cup or European Championships, losing 44 and winning just two.
However, before everyone starts backing the Scots to run up a cricket score at the Ta’Qali National Stadium, it should be highlighted that Malta don’t get thrashed often. Even Italy only defeated them 1-0 in both qualifiers for Euro 2016.
In fact, Malta have only conceded more than twice in one of their last 15 matches, when beaten 6-0 in an away friendly by the Czechs. Meanwhile, they have only troubled the scorers themselves in a quarter of their last 20 fixtures.
Therefore, by far the most likely outcomes are either a 1-0 or 2-0 victory in Scotland’s favour.
The 1-0 success is priced at 9/2, with the 2-0 on offer at 5/1. Backing both may be the sensible betting play, with a decent profit turned if either scoreline proves correct.
Alternatively, it is 8/11 that the World Cup qualifier features under 2.5 goals.
A win is ultimately essential for Scotland, with England, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania their other competition in Group F.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.