WITH World Cup qualification on the line, Will Dyer (@w2dyer) is charged with previewing this huge showdown between old rivals, who will prevail?
Wales v Ireland | Monday 9th October 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Wales and Ireland will do battle for World Cup qualification rights on Monday night. It will be an emotional evening, not unlike the many we have seen from around the world over the last week.
There are still many permutations available to both nations thanks to substitute Louis Schaub’s late winner for Austria against top-of-the-group Serbia on Friday night. It means that Serbia can still be reeled in by both Wales and Ireland for automatic qualification.
However, top spot hangs on Serbia’s home game against Georgia which would appear a gimme for the hosts; therefore, neither nation will be playing with a strategy which relies on results elsewhere. Wales one-point advantage means that only a win will do for Ireland if they are to clinch second place and the play-off that goes with it.
Serbia Hold The Keys
Due to UEFA changes post-drawing the groups, results against the sixth placed side in each group do not count towards the ranking of second place teams and that means that Wales and Ireland have so far only amassed 11 and 10 points respectively under that ruling; having both beaten Moldova twice.
It’s all very complicated but basically both nations could therefore still be snubbed by Croatia and Scotland and be the one nation to finish second and get knocked out. For Wales, a win would probably be enough to clinch a play-off spot depending on final goal difference, for Ireland a win might not be enough.
No Bale, No Party?
The biggest talking point in the British Isles in the run up to the game is the absence of Gareth Bale. It didn’t stop the Dragons taking all three points in Georgia on Friday night but whether it’s the deciding factor in a game of this magnitude remains to be seen.
Wales didn’t make it all the way to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 due to the exploits of just one superstar player though. The current crop of players includes regular Premier League performers in Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Hal Robson-Kanu, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, Sam Vokes and Wayne Hennessey.
The 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture back in March at the Aviva Stadium was a key result in shaping this finale and is thanks to the quality throughout the Welsh side.
Chris Coleman, half-Irish but born and bred in Swansea, could well field a similar line-up to that game where he played five at the back but if expects Ireland to do the same he’s probably mistaken. With a win the only result good enough for the Boys in Green, they’ll probably continue where they left off with the 4-3-3 last Friday.
These two teams have the ability to be exceptionally solid at the back, the same goes for all nations from the British Isles. Only five of the 54 teams competing in the UEFA qualifiers have conceded less and they are England, Portugal, Germany, Spain and Croatia; so they’re in good company. But this match calls for something different.
Top Heavy Emerald Islers
Ireland will probably start with Daryl Murphy and Shane Long in Jonathan Walters injury absence. However, predicting who partners them is incredibly difficult with Martin O’Neill usually holding his cards close to his chest.
Callum O’Dowda started on Friday night but Robbie Brady and James McLean’s suspensions are lifted for the big one. O’Neill can also call on Aiden McGeady and Villa duo Scott Hogan and Conor Hourihane, the latter of which is having an exceptional season.
If Ireland approach this a bit top heavy as anticipated, I foresee a few more goals than we’ve become accustomed to with these sides. I fancy Wales to avoid defeat but there’s little value to be had so Both Teams To Score at 22/19 with 188Bet is the bet for me, in what promises to be a cauldron at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Wales v Ireland – Both Teams To Score (22/19 188Bet)