REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Wales and the Republic of Ireland meet in a battle for second spot on Monday night, but the pair will have an eye on top spot. This group was blown open by Austria’s 3-2 win over Serbia, which gives these two an outside shot of finishing top, if Georgia pull off another upset. However, these two will need to win and guarantee second place before they can worry about leapfrogging Serbia.
This is one of the tightest battles for a World Cup spot across Europe, which makes this game really interesting. The fact that this group could be the one to miss out on a play-off spot only adds more drama to proceedings. One of the nine runners-up will miss out on the play-offs, which is the side with the fewest points against the top five teams in their group. The Republic of Ireland could turn up here and win, yet not make the play-offs. At the same time, that concern means that second placed Wales can’t settle for a draw to carry them through.
That added tension should open up what could have been a cagey clash. These two played out a 0-0 draw in Dublin in their last meeting, which was a match where both showed little ambition. However, knowing that they need a win means both have to take more risks, which should open this game up.
The Irish will be comforted by the fact that seven of their 11 goals have come on the road in this campaign. They’ve scored in all of their four away games, while the Welsh have found the net in every home match. With the two needing a result to make it in to the top two, and possibly in to top spot, we see the match opening up. We’re backing both teams to score in this one, which looks like a good bet.
The Republic of Ireland’s chances of scoring are boosted by the fact that James McClean and Robbie Brady return from suspension. McClean has three crucial away goals for the Irish in this campaign, and he’s probably their main goal threat coming in to this game. The West Brom winger is emerging as a leader in this squad, and we think he’ll make a big impact. We’re backing McClean to add to his three goals so far.
We’re rounding off our predictions on this one by backing the draw, which is priced at 21/10 with bet365. This group has been full of draws, with the Irish seeing four in this group so far. With three of their last four meetings in Wales finishing level, and given that potential match-winner Gareth Bale is out, we see these two sharing the points, which could ultimately send them both out.
PREDICTION; WALES WIN OR DRAW AND BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE