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Celtic Warriors: Wales vs Ireland

Monday 9th October 2017
Only one from Wales vs Ireland can qualify for next summer's World Cup. Tonight, they're going toe-to-toe for a place in Russia 2018.

Serbia sits top of Group D but missed the opportunity to seal automatic qualification after a Friday night defeat at Austria's hands. The Serb's loss in Vienna means both Wales and Ireland have the chance to finish top of the table if Serbia drop points against Georgia.

The Cardiff City Stadium will host a grudge match between two of the home nations but both teams are missing some key players. Wales are without talisman Gareth Bale due to a calf injury. Seamus Coleman is still missing for the Irish after breaking his leg during the last game between the two sides back in March, a goalless draw.
There is sure to be some bad blood between these two teams after that feisty encounter in Dublin, which saw Neil Taylor sent off for his challenge on Coleman. There was also a flare-up between Gareth Bale and John O'Shea after the Real Madrid forward fouled the Sunderland defender, which should really have led to a red card. Bale was only booked. That sparked fury in the Irish team, especially O'Shea himself.

Derby County's Tom Lawrence was the match winner against Georgia, now he'll look to fill the void left by the aforementioned Bale once again tonight. The attacking midfielder is technically gifted and it was a surprise he didn't make a breakthrough at Leicester before taking the step down to the Championship. He'll link up with Wales's main attacking threat in Aaron Ramsey, who, in the absence of Bale, is only one of two Wales players to have played Champions League football in their career. Ben Davies is also a major asset to this Wales team and is in fine form with Tottenham in the Premier League – Cyrus Christie will have to watch out for his overlapping runs.

Daryl Murphy will be looking to his two goals that he bagged against Moldova on Saturday evening but it will be a big game for Shane Long. The Southampton striker hasn't found the net in 24 games for club and country; this could be the perfect opportunity to do just that. Unlike Wales, much of their team is made up of Championship players so it's the Premier League regulars, such as Jeff Hendrick and Harry Arter, who will bring some much-needed experience of participating in games at the highest level. A rising star in this Irish side is Callum O'Dowda, the 22-year-old was born in England but qualifies for Ireland through his grandfather. He'll be looking to help Ireland qualify for the World Cup with his pace and skills on the wing and, after impressing against Moldova, Martin O'Neill could hand him a start on this huge occasion.
O'Neill's side had fallen behind slightly in this qualifying group after three games without a win at the start of this calendar year. They sat top of the group with 10 points before the first games against Wales in March with their opposition sitting 4 points further back and looking unlikely to qualify. Despite the shaky period towards the end of this qualifying campaign, O'Neill and his coaching staff have extended their contracts to take them up to the end of Euro 2020. Chris Coleman, arguably Wales' most successful manager, is on the verge of qualifying for a second successive major tournament (they'd only played in one in their history before he was appointed). He's switched from his back three formation to a back four in recent games which shows a willingness to adapt.
Wales need just a point from this game to secure a play-off spot but they'll be wanting to win because the chance to qualify automatically is on offer in case of a Serbia slip up. Ireland will have to win the game in order to move above Wales into 2nd place but, like Wales, a win could send them above Serbia into 1st. There is a condition in which neither side makes the play-offs. Due to numbers, one second placed team from the nine UEFA groups has to miss out (the team with the fewest points) so if this match ends in a draw there's a real chance this could happen. This just heightens the importance of winning the game to both sides. As with any derby, it adds extra spice to a game that is already so important.
Billy Munday

I'm a young, aspiring sports journalist and also a Chelsea fan, living the dream in London. You can find more examples of my work on Chelsea blogs such as the Chelsea Chronicle.


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