The Republic of Ireland travel to Moscow to face Russia (Tuesday, 4.00pm kick off) desperately needing a good performance and result in order to stay in touch with their opponents and Slovakia in a very tight group.
Following their disappointing scoreless draw against Slovakia on Friday, the Irish lie two points behind Russia and level on points with Slovakia but the former play Armenia at home on the same evening and will be expected to pick up three points.
A win for Dick Advocaat’s Russia would cement their place at the top of the table while conversely a defeat for Trapattoni’s men would mean their destiny would be out of their hands.
However a win for the Boys in Green would throw the group wide open once again, this really is a do or die game for Trap’s men.
Ireland were far from their best in Dublin on Friday but did squander a few chances to snatch all three vital points. The most notable opportunity falling to Robbie Keane but despite the draw, the Irish camp were still upbeat about their chances of qualification whether it being automatic or via the play offs.
The latter is looking like the most likely path for Ireland to Poland/Ukraine but they will have a lot of work to do in order to beat Slovakia to that spot.
Russia are unbeaten in their last five games and despite being in good form they didn’t impress on Friday, just edging past Macedonia at home. Recent results have seen them beat Serbia in a recent friendly and draw with Cameroon.
Last 5 games: WWDWD
Ireland hasn’t conceded a goal in six games, a record, and has been in good form recently, the draw with Slovakia aside. The Republic drew with Croatia last month and have beaten Italy as well claimed the Carling Nations Cup during their unbeaten run.
Last 5 games: DDWWW
Advocaat will have to do without Igor Denisov through suspension but will have Sergei Ignashevich back after he served his one game ban. The big absentee is goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev due to injury so Vyacheslav Malafeev continues between the sticks.
The Dutch coach has indicated that he could play Arsenal star Andrei Arshavin in a deep lying midfield role, the 30 year old normally plies his trade up front or on the wings.
Trapattoni has been hit with a number of injury withdrawals ahead of the game. John O’Shea and Shane Long are both out after picking up injuries during and before the Slovakia game respectively. Shay Given was a doubt but has overcome a back injury to play.
Friday’s man of the match Sean St Ledger is also out through suspension and Darren O’Dea will fill in for the Leicester defender. Fulham’s Stephen Kelly plays at right back instead of O’Shea in the only other change from Friday’s draw in Dublin.
The midfield battle
The Russian midfield dominated in Dublin in their 3-2 victory and if Ireland can keep Arshavin quiet especially then Ireland might be in with a chance of coming away with three vital points.
The Russian crowd starting booing their own players during recent games, so if Ireland frustrate the Russian’s and stem the flow towards their goal then the home fans might become increasingly frustrated.
Whelan and Andrews will need to work their socks off on the artificial surface which might play some part. Ireland would not be used to play on such a surface and might take a little while to get used to.
Did you know? Ireland winger Aiden McGeady will play at his home ground on Tuesday as he plays for Spartak Moscow who shares the Luzhniki Stadium with rivals CSKA Moscow.
Home win 3/4
Away win 4/1
Group B winner- Russia 1/2 Slovakia 7/2 Rep of Ireland 7/2
Other games: Macedonia v Andorra, Slovakia v Armenia
Prediction: It is going to be very difficult for Ireland but their system and style of play could just hold them in good stead for this game. They defend very well and then can hit Russia on the break. It is going to be a tight game but I reckon it will end scoreless.