Previewing Ireland v Wales – World Cup 2018 Qualifier
The Republic of Ireland host Wales in what is certain to be a crucial fixture in both sides qualification journey for the 2018 World Cup.
The Boys in Green sit top of Group D with 10 points while Wales sit in third on 6 points. Both sides have aspirations of reaching the World Cup next year and a win for either side will be a huge step towards Russia.
Martin O’Neill’s squad has been decimated by injuries.
Wes Hoolahan, Harry Arter, Shane Duffy, Daryl Murphy, Ciaran Clark and Paul McShane are among those on the treatment table, and Robbie Brady will miss out through suspension after picking up a needless yellow card in Vienna last time out.
Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies are all fit for Wales, and Chris Coleman has no fresh injury worries ahead of Friday’s showdown in Dublin.
How will Ireland line up?
Potential XI: Randolph, Coleman O’Shea Keogh Ward, Whelan McCarthy Hendrick, Walters, McClean, Long (4-3-3/4-5-1)
While some fans would like to see John Egan handed a debut, Martin O’Neill is more likely to turn to the experienced John O’Shea in Shane Duffy’s absence.
David Meyler was impressive against Austria, but will probably be backup to Whelan and McCarthy on the night.
Aiden McGeady is in scintillating form with Preston – as is Daryl Horgan – but both are more likely to be used as impact substitutions than starters, with Walters and McClean likely to start out wide.
Wales have won one and drawn three of their four games to date in Group D after reaching the Euro 2016 semi-final last summer. They are currently third in Group D, four points behind Ireland.
While the Welsh – who are ranked 12th in the world – haven’t beaten Ireland in their last six attempts, they haven’t lost a qualifier for a major tournament since 2015.
Chris Coleman has a talented squad at his disposal, and Gareth Bale will be the only world class player on show at the Aviva on Friday night. Wales also have a strong spine, with experienced defenders such as Ashley Williams and Ben Davies, and talented midfielders such as Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Joe Ledley.
The action kicks off at the Aviva Stadium at 19:45 and will be broadcast on RTÉ2 and Sky Sports 1.