Martin O’Neill leads his Republic of Ireland side into a huge week as they go in search of one of the coveted 32 spots at World Cup 2018 in Russia.
Georgia, who are 106 places below Ireland in the FIFA world rankings, provide the opposition on Thursday night (7.45pm) at the Aviva Stadium. Following that, the Boys in Green must make the journey deep into Eastern Europe on Monday for a meeting with minnows Moldova in Chisinau.
You would believe six points must be the target from the week, or else Ireland may be looking down the barrel of a fourth failure in-a-row to qualify for football’s greatest show.
Ireland are heavy favourites to win Thursday qualifier and it’s really is easy to see why because their recent home record suggests they just love playing at the Aviva Stadium.
It’s been well over two years (June 2014) since Ireland lost at their home ground and O’Neill has never tasted defeat in a competitive game there. They did lose to Belarus on Irish soil before Euro 2016, but that game was held in Cork’s Turners Cross.
The trip to Dublin to face the Boys in Green is becoming one that international sides must be starting to fear (just ask Germany), and it really does seem that O’Neill has got Ireland firing inside the redeveloped Lansdowne Road.
On the road to qualifying for Euro 2016 Ireland picked up an impressive 11 points from a possible 15 there, with only Scotland and Poland taking away draws, and they are currently on an amazing 13-game undefeated streak at what we surely have to call ‘Fortress Aviva’.
In the run up to Thursday’s qualifier, we decided to dig a little deeper to see if Ireland are value for money for our loyal punters if they back them to win at home.
What we found from our analysis is that they’re most definitely worth a punt at home to Georgia. Why? Because at home they’re putting euros in punter’s pockets.
Using games since January 2015 and an average stake per bettor of €10, Martin O’Neill’s men would have given you a nice profit of €48.66 if you stuck a tenner on them in each of the 11 games at the Aviva Stadium over that time.
With all that on the table, is it any wonder the Georgians are unfancied at ?
A hectic opening spell to the football season has taken its toll on the Boys in Green’s squad however, with O’Neill having to sweat over a multitude of injury concerns.
Incredibly Daryl Murphy, Stephen Quinn, Aiden McGeady Kevin Doyle, Keiren Westwood and Anthony Pilkington are all laid up with a series of injuries, while Bournemouth’s Harry Arter, who is yet to receive a competitive cap, is in need of a scan on groin scare.
This may force the Derry man to risk Everton’s James McCarthy, despite the fact he’s been out for over a month with another groin problem.
Ronald Koeman will be spitting feathers if he does play, given the fact he has even returned to full training with the Toffees.
When you glance back over Ireland’s history in matches against Georgia a few trends immediately leap off the page.
Probably the most important one being that Ireland have scored a victory every single time the two sides have faced-off.
Of those seven victories, the Boys in Green have taken the win four times on a 2-1 scoreline, including their opening victory of Euro 2016 qualifiers in Tbilisi. It’s a tidy for a repeat of that on the scoreboard on Thursday.
However, they have also kept the Georgians at bay in their last two contests in Dublin and on Ireland to win to nil might just be the correct value play.
With ink still drying on O’Neill’s shiny new contract, two wins are essential this week. If not, then maybe it won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.