Scotland v Republic of Ireland: Euro Qualifier
Tonight’s Glasgow meeting of Scotland v Republic of Ireland is a different proposition to the average European Championship qualifier.
Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill will have studied the previous games in this group with a view to finding weaknesses, but they will already have their own ideas about players they have either managed themselves or managed against in their club careers.
It makes this a difficult game to call. Aiden McGeady observed on Wednesday that the squads have a similar age profile and are packed with players that are roughly operating at the same level on a week to week basis. On a given day, both sides are perfectly capable of beating the other.
Ireland will look to exploit a Scottish back four that fails to inspire and conceded twice in Poland last month to draw. The centre half pairing of Gordon Greer and Russell Martin will not intimidate the visitors.
Robbie Keane has been starved of space in Ireland’s opening two matches but if this game is played at a breakneck pace then a few more gaps should open up and he might finally get a chance to demonstrate his prowess in front of goal.
Scotland will seek to exert control in midfield where Ireland will definitely be without regular options James McCarthy and Glenn Whelan. Darron Gibson, who is waiting in reserve, is also short of match fitness. The hosts have some tidy players that will look to dictate the game.
A bizarre incident involving Roy Keane at the team hotel has dominated Irish preparations whereas Scotland’s confidence is striking.
The Republic of Ireland are a sturdy opponent and finished strongly in Georgia and Germany and have no reason to fear the Scots in an environment where they should draw strength from a sizeable away support.
Ireland have more top flight players and, if Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy are available, the best two players on the park. Laying the Scots at 2.44 makes appeal. They are too short.
Both Teams to Score – YES came up in the Republic of Ireland’s draw in Germany last month and while it is clear that this Scottish side is capable of hurting opposition defences. Their rearguard is not remotely intimidating and the BTTS odds are pretty attractive.
Ireland have injury issues to deal with but, under O’Neill, they have demonstrated a refreshing ability to change things around within games and find an acceptable solution to dig them out of trouble.
Therefore, the price on a Scotland advantage at the break and honours even at full time makes some appeal. A draw at the interval and an Irish win at 8.0 could be supported, but the sharing of the points with a twist is tempting.
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