Group B of 2018 Asian World Cup qualifying is very exciting and there are several teams in contention of claiming the two automatic places. Both United Arab Emirates and Japan are in position to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia and this is a crucial match in terms of who will progress to the final tournament.
There are only two teams who are out of contention at the moment, with Thailand on 1 point and Iraq just above them on 3 points. Australia and Saudi Arabia join United Arab Emirates and Japan as the teams who can realistically finish in the top two.
You must go back to 1990 to find the last time United Arab Emirates qualified for the World Cup and they failed to pick up a single point, finishing last with goal difference considered. Japan have qualified for the last five World Cup finals, with their best performance coming in 2002 and 2010, when they reached the Round of 16.
With United Arab Emirates playing at home, this has influenced the odds but Japan remain as favourites to win the match. The Japanese, who defeated Saudi Arabia in their previous match, held Australia to a 1-1 draw in their last away game in the group and will feel confident of going one better in the UAE.
However, United Arab Emirates caused a shock in the opening match of Group B, when they defeated Japan 2-1 in Saitama, coming back from a one goal deficit in doing so. United Arab Emirates defeated Iraq in their previous home match but given Japan’s improvement since their first meeting, perhaps the draw would be the better bet.
United Arab Emirates struggled when playing World Cup qualifying games at home between 2008 and 2011. During that time, they won only two of ten World Cup qualifying games in their own stadium but have since improved. Between 2012 and 2017, they have won six of eight games, drawing one and losing the other. In this qualifying period, UAE have struggled to keep a clean sheet, managing one in their last four home matches. Japan on the other hand, have been excellent away from home and have won six and drawn one of their last seven, keeping six clean sheets. Bet on Japan to win the match to nil.
As with many fixtures at this stage of Asian qualifying, do not expect one team to dominate the match. Japan may sneak the victory but it is unlikely to be by more than 1 goal and this can be a good pick here.