Republic of Ireland v Georgia
Saturday October 6th 19.45 GMT
Fresh off the back of a relatively successful Euro 2016, Ireland come into these World Cup qualifiers with some degree of confidence in their ability to qualify from the group.
Given that this group also contains Wales, Austria and Serbia, they will need that confidence to manifest itself into some positive results, starting with this match against lowly Georgia.
We say “lowly’ but really, Georgia have rarely made life easy for Ireland. The nations were opponents in the Euro 2016 qualifying group (and also in the qualifying group for WC 2010) and although Ireland won both ties, they were tight matches and Ireland were fortunate to win the away fixture, requiring a wonder Aiden McGeady goal in the 90th minute to grab the spoils.
Such supernatural events are rare and so Ireland will have rely on more conventional manners to score their goals. Unfortunately, neither Shane Long or Jonathon Walters have scored for their respective clubs this year, the former having lost his starting place at Southampton and the latter featuring infrequently for Stoke. One of Ireland’s few bright spots this season has been Harry Arter and wouldn’t you know it, he’s gone and got injured.
Some of the more excitable Irish fans are claiming this supposed knock is a con and that his allegiance to his adopted homeland might be wavering in favour of purported interest from the English national team. He has yet to be capped in a competitive fixture for Ireland so theoretically this is a possibility but he has always given the impression that he wants to play for the boys in green so fans will be hoping such notions are just idle fancy on the part of the tabloid-minded.
Few neutrals will be tuning in for this match as neither side are in the habit of playing pleasing football. Small nation that they are, Georgia have some excuse but Ireland really should be trying to do more than simply lump the ball up the pitch.
Georgia provide the type of obdurate but limited opposition that Ireland should control and put away with some composure and purpose. There’s precious little chance of that, mind, but whatever they serve up, it should be just about enough to win. Best price for that outcome is 1/2 from StanJames.