With Germany (1.52) back on form after last year’s World Cup winning hangover lingered into the autumn, it would be difficult to make a case for a full strength Irish outfit (7.80) causing them problems in the Aviva Stadium on Thursday.
The fact that Martin O’Neill’s side are set to enter battle without a number of key players makes it even more unlikely……
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….even if a full house and the raised stakes should prompt a lively night in Dublin.
Preparations have not gone well for O’Neill. His leading light, Everton right-back Seamus Coleman, seems certain to miss out with a hamstring problem that has ruled him out of club duty since September 12.
First choice central midfielder Glenn Whelan is banned and possible replacements Stephen Quinn and Harry Arter are unavailable. Aiden McGeady has not lined out for Everton since August and O’Neill has admitted that he a ‘little cameo’ is the best he can hope for from a player he views as integral to his plans. James McClean, another wide option who starred in the unlikely draw in Gelsenkirchen 12 months ago, is also suspended. Wes Hoolahan, his playmaker, is carrying a knock but he should make it.
In an ideal world, O’Neill would be worrying about whether to select Ciaran Clark or Marc Wilson as a centre half partner for John O’Shea. But Clark and Wilson are both absent for the Germany game, with the latter hoping to shake off a calf problem for the second leg of the double header in Poland.
The last time Germany came to Dublin, they enjoyed the wide open spaces of the unthreatening Aviva Stadium and scored six goals against a patched up Irish team. O’Neill did go to Germany last year with a weakened team that nabbed a late equaliser, but it’s hard to construct serious analysis based around the premise that lightning might strike twice.
Granted, the Germans need just a point to book their place in France next summer so there’s a possibility that pragmatism will come to the fore if Ireland are level pegging heading into the final quarter of this game. But the weekend performances of Bayern Munich pair Thomas Muller and Mario Gotze and Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil served as an ominous warning for O’Neill who was at the Championship meeting of Derby and Brentford because he may have to involve three Derby players in his starting team – Jeff Hendrick, Coleman’s understudy Cyrus Christie and back-up defender Richard Keogh.
Ireland will secure a playoff spot if they take three points from their next two games. But the most plausible passage to next month’s drama is a win for Poland against Scotland at Hampden Park in a fixture that runs in tandem with this encounter. Just like last month, when the Scots flopped in Tbilisi, it could be bad news for the neighbours that perks Irish spirits. At 1.52 Germany are a solid bet.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals – containment the watchword
There is an element of a ‘free shot’ about this fixture for Ireland seeing as they’ll be in contention going to Warsaw whatever matters and O’Neill did speak last month about giving it a go and having no regrets. Nevertheless, it’s true that a draw in Dublin and a draw in Glasgow would also be enough to confirm third place – matching Scotland’s result is the simple breakdown.
With the fitness issues around key men, especially in defence, the slim chance that Ireland would adopt an attacking approach has evaporated. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if the focus on containment makes this a low scoring affair. Germany created a host of openings away to a Scottish team that really went for it and left gaps. One expects O’Neill to look at that and preach caution. 2.20 for Unders is worth a speculative punt.
Half Time/Full Time – Germans might take their time
On a similar theme, the Draw/Germany could be the value bet in the Half Time/Full Time market. This is the sixth competitive meeting of these sides in the past decade and the lesson of the other ties would indicate that Ireland focus so heavily on keeping it tight in the early exchanges that 4.70 in this market is a reasonable price – and certainly has back-to-lay potential.
Even in the Dublin drubbing in 2012, it took 32 minutes for Marco Reus to make the breakthrough. Three of the other four jousts were scoreless at the interval. Ireland have started slowly in some significant matches during the O’Neill’s era, but it wouldn’t be a major shock if they maintained parity until the halfway point.
“O’Neill did go to Germany last year with a weakened team that nabbed a late equaliser, but it’s hard to construct serious analysis based around the premise that lightning might strike twice.