Saturday 12th November 17.00 GMT
It’s been said many times that in international football, the inclusion of a world class player in a side has a much greater effect than it generally does in club football. Take, for example, Wales. Their first 11 generally has a smattering of players from the fringes of BPL teams and others from the second tier of English football. They also have Gareth Bale (and Aaron Ramsey but he’s not quite world class, we’d argue). Bale raises the expectation value of the Wales team as he is often head and shoulders above all the other players around him. Austria, too, have one such player – step forward David Alaba.
The Bayern Munich full-back/centre-back/midfield tyro has been an exceptional player for both club and country and few teams know that quite as sharply as Ireland. The boys in green have suffered at his hands in previous campaigns when his goals for Austria have taken many a precious point.
Irish fans looking for some crumbs of comfort should recall Austria’s disastrous Euro 2016 campaign. Their former scourge was played in a variety of positions, even up top, but singularly failed to impress in any of them. Austria, talked up by many as a potential dark horse of the tournament, stank then sank. Much was expected of their talisman and little was delivered. The visitors will be hoping that his form hasn’t taken an upswing since.
Coming of age
Ireland surprised many by progressing from their group in the Euro’s but they were quickly dispatched by France once they reached the knock-out stages. Still, many of their young players came of age during the tournament and it is on the shoulders of these players that they look to build for the future. One such such man is Robbie Brady. He is the team’s set-piece specialist and Ireland will look to capitalize on this come corners and frees.
That Robbie Brady will be playing we can be sure of but where, we can’t. Ireland have a number of injuries to contend with including at left back. Brady may be asked to slot in back there. Midfield is likely to see the first competitive start for Bournemouth’s Harry Arter. The midfielder has impressed with some excellent displays for his club and will be desperate to show what he can do on the international stage.
Austria are three points behind Ireland as it stands. Lose here and it’s six. That size gap in such a tight group would probably be the death knell of their qualification ambitions so they will be all out for a win. Ireland, by contrast, whilst delighted with a win themselves would be quite happy to come away from this tie with honours even.
The bookies have Austria as favourites but, even though this Austria team has seemed to have a hex over Ireland in recent years, they’re no great shakes. Don’t expect a match of the highest quality as the ball will probably stay in the air for extended periods of time. There will be tension and there will be the odd flash of skill here and there but in the end, a draw seems the likeliest outcome. MarathonBet have the best price for that result at 53/21.