Friday 24 March – Aviva Stadium – World Cup Qualifier
Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland are well-placed to make World Cup 2018 but Wales remain dangerous. It’s a must-watch tie in Group D that looks to be evenly-poised.
Recent history favours Ireland in this fixture, winning three out of the last six meetings between the two sides, alongside three draws. In fact Wales have not beaten the Boys in Green since 1992.
Injuries have damaged Martin O’Neill’s preparations with a host of withdrawals, whilst Chris Coleman will be pleased to see star men Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale both back fit.
Ireland will be without first choice defensive pairing Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark through injury, they are joined on the injury list by Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady is suspended. James McCarthy and Shane Long are both back in the squad after missing November’s qualifier against Austria.
Wales are at full strength with their only withdrawal Ipswich Town midfielder Tom Lawrence, he is replaced by teenager Harry Wilson, who joins Liverpool club mate Ben Woodburn in the squad.
Republic of Ireland v Wales Previews and Predictions
The injuries have hit Ireland hard, and O’Neill will field something of a patched up starting XI against Wales, with veteran John O’Shea charged with the unenviable task of stopping Bale. However Ireland are top of the group, and unbeaten in qualification so far, this will be a real source of motivation for the home side.
The hosts go into the game at a best price of 11/8 and a victory would go a long way towards a place in Russia, with the Boys In Green already top of the table. Wales are at around 12/5 to get the points they need to pull back the Republic. The draw is 11/5 but in such a tight group, a point really helps no-one but Serbia, who are in second place.
Goals have been spread out between the squad in their opening four qualifiers, with West Brom’s James McClean leading the way with three. McClean to score first is 8/1, with Hoolahan and Brady both out, he is likely to take on an increased forward role.
Southampton forward Shane Long will also be a real threat, having ended his international goal drought against Moldova in the autumn. Long is 9/2 to score first and his pace will be a real cause for concern for the Welsh back line.
Wales have struggled to regain their spark following the march to the semi-finals of EURO 2016, unbeaten in qualifying, but three successive draws have damaged their chances. Bale is the obvious threat for Coleman’s team, with four goals already in qualifying, and the Real Madrid man is 4/1 to score first against Ireland.
Bale is likely to be supported in attack by Sam Vokes and Hal Robson-Kanu, both whom have been in good club form of late, and their physical power will be a threat to Ireland. Burnley’s Vokes is 8/1 to score first and West Brom’s Robson-Kanu is 17/2 to score first.
Correct score of 1-1 at 28/5
Wales have quality but Ireland have resolve. Don’t be shocked if they cancel each other out.
Wales to score first at 6/4
Wales need the win, so expect them to come out of the blocks quickly and try to spoil the party in Dublin.