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If you’ve ever had the pleasure to be in Dublin on a Friday night you’ll know just how entertaining the city is when it comes alive for the weekend. This week there will be a couple of thousand Welsh fans among the revellers in Temple Bar enjoying themselves like everybody else.
However, it will be strictly business in the Aviva Stadium where Ireland host Wales in a potentially pivotal game for both nations’ chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
Ireland currently hold a two point advantage over Serbia in Group D of UEFA qualifying with Wales a further two points back. That’s a fairly sizeable difference after just four games and it’s prompted some pundits to claim that this is a must-win game for Chris Coleman’s team.
It’s not yet panic stations for Wales but there’s no doubt that Coleman is feeling the pressure of having to live up to last summer’s heroics at the European Championships. His opposite number, Martin O’Neill, on the other hand, seems to have built on his team’s solid performance in France setting Friday’s match up wonderfully.
Ireland 6/4 (William Hill)
Draw 43/20 (Sportingbet)
Wales 23/10 (Bet365)
It’s taken a little time but Martin O’Neill looks to have Ireland playing to their strengths. The former Aston Villa and Leicester manager has made the Boys in Green difficult to beat, generally getting them to defend deep before hitting on the counter attack.
Alongside assistant, Roy Keane, O’Neill will be feeling confident about Ireland’s chances on Friday but their task has been made all the more difficult due to something of an injury crisis. Several players in with a chance of starting have been ruled out while Wales have close to a fully fit squad.
As we saw during Ireland’s battling 1-0 win away against Austria, O’Neill’s men like a challenge which is lucky as they’ll have to be near the top of their game against Wales.
Wales’s only win of qualification so far was a routine one against Georgia but this hasn’t become a bad squad overnight. In Gareth Bale they have one of the best players in the world and their midfield looks especially strong when compared to Ireland.
Three points in Dublin would be a huge result for Wales. Therefore, it’s likely that Coleman will tell his players to go on the offensive from the start. An attacking mentality has worked for Wales before but it’s surely dangerous against an Ireland side adept at playing on the break.
A draw won’t be much use for either team but it does look a highly likely outcome at a best price of 43/20 with Sportingbet.
Draw 1-1 @ 11/2 (William Hill)
Ireland 1-0 @ 11/2 (Coral)
Draw 0-0 @ 6/1 (Coral)
Wales 1-0 @ 7/1 (Paddy Power)
Ireland 2-1 @ 9/1 (Stan James)
Ireland 2-0 @ 10/1 (Coral)
The importance of this fixture makes it highly unlikely that we’ll see a 0-0. Wales must go on the offensive to bring the three points back home with them while Ireland have attacking players capable of making life very difficult for the visitors.
If either side manages to come out of the game with a game, chances are they will have to score more than once to do so. Neither team has a particularly strong defence (they’ve got three clean sheets between them from eight games) so you should expect them both to get on the scoresheet.
You could, then, back both teams to score at 6/5 with William Hill. Or, if you’re feeling a little braver, the 1-1 correct score looks worth a shot at 11/2 with the same firm.
Gareth Bale 9/2 (Paddy Power)
Daryl Murphy 11/2 (Sky Bet)
Shane Long 5/1 (Paddy Power)
Jon Walters 11/2 (Sky Bet)
Kevin Doyle 6/1 (Boylesports)
James McClean 15/2 (William Hill)
Hal Robson-Kanu 9/1 (Betfair)
Sam Vokes 9/1 (William Hill)
It’s no surprise to see Gareth Bale sitting right at the top of the First Goalscorer market. The Real Madrid forward has scored twice since returning from injury and there is absolutely no question that he is the best player in either squad.
Bale’s quality is such that he could certainly score the game’s first goal but the value looks to be with Shane Long.
The Southampton striker suffered a goal drought in the first half of the season but he’s looked much more like his old self over recent weeks. With Daryl Murphy an injury doubt, Long should lead the line for Ireland and could score the opener at 5/1 with Paddy Power.
Match result draw at 43/20 with Sportingbet
Shane Long to score first at 5/1 with Paddy Power