The in-form Irish travel to Austria looking to keep their Russian dream alive as they clash horns with the struggling Austrians, who are experiencing a tough start to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.
Without intending to disrespect any team, a win over side of Georgia’s quality can hardly be called an achievement and Austria are well aware that they need to show significant improvement in order to get back in the race for top two spots in Group D. Das Team boasts plenty of talent in their ranks but appear unable to make it work internationally for quite some time. Following the successful Euro 2016 qualifiers, Austria lacked luck and fortune to progress to the knockouts in France, but their brand new 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign did not see a change in fortunes apparently. The 2-1 triumph in Georgia was followed by the 2-2 stalemate against Wales and an empathic 3-2 loss in Belgrade to group leaders Serbia. The Austrians fought bravely at the Rajko Mitic stadium, but ultimately lacked composure and concentration to emerge unbeaten. Four points from the three opening matches are enough for the fourth place in the standings and Marcel Koller’s side are well aware that a victory over Ireland could throw them right back in the contention for two top spots.
Home side will have no major selection issues for the forthcoming clash with the expection of Zlatko Junuzovic and Sebastian Prodl, who are both out with injuries.
Republic of Ireland are long way past from being called a surprise package anymore. Martin O’Neill’s men have become a force to be reckoned with, a tightly-packed unit able to put in a fight regardless of the opposition. This was most obvious during the Euro 2016 qualifiers and the final showpiece in France itself, when Republic of Ireland came one step from producing a major upset in the knockouts against the tournament hosts France. Irish have nevertheless continued their impressive run of form, extending it to the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying which began with a hard-fought point in Belgrade. O’Neill’s men put in a brave performance against Serbia, which proved to be quite an impetus for the squad. Ireland subsequently notched back-to-back wins over Georgia and Modlova, but a trip to Austria is likely to be a much more difficult of a test. Attack-oriented Austrians on their part will have to do with organised defensive unit and there is no doubt that the Boys in Green will once again look to punish their rivals on the counter breaks. Their chances of recording a positive result were given a slight dent with plenty of selection problems however.
Martin O’Neill will be without his first-choice striker Shane Long who is unavailable through injury. Daryl Murphy is also ruled out for the occasion, while James McClean and John O’Shea should be fit to play despite their most recent knocks.
Free-scoring Austria will have to tighten up their defences against a dangerous side such as Republic of Ireland. We expect hosts to come charging forward from the off, which gives us plenty of reason to believe there will be goals on both ends of the pitch.
Top pick: Both teams to score – yes 2.12 (19/17) @Unibet
Alternative pick 1: Austria 2.00 (1/1) @Bet365
Alternative pick 2: Arnautovic to score anytime 3.20 (11/5) @BetVictor