A win for either side will have huge significance for Group D standings
Keith Andrews and John Hartson joined Off The Ball last night to look ahead to Friday's big World Cup qualifier in Dublin.
Ireland face Wales tonight in front of a sold out Aviva Stadium. It has been a highly anticipated match that should play a huge role in deciding both sides' World Cup qualification fate. Ireland find themselves on top of the group on 10 points with Wales sitting four points behind them. A win would put Ireland seven points clear but a win for the visitors and suddenly the group is wide open again.
“It’s a group that I think a lot of teams will take points off each other,” said Hartson.
“If you look at the top three teams, Ireland, Serbia and Wales - they are all unbeaten. I feel tomorrow is a big day throughout the whole group. I think Serbia will go and win in Georgia and that will put them top of the group. I think Austria will win at home against Moldova. All of a sudden Ireland have a chance to give themselves some breathing space ahead of the others. It is imperative Wales pick something up. I genuinely don’t think we can afford to get beaten."
Similarly, Andrews believes the pressure is definitely on the visitors to take something from the game. “It’s a huge, huge game. I don’t think it’s down to attitude. That’s not something that can be thrown at our players 90% of the time. I think the injuries that has been well documented will have a huge effect. I think we are facing a team that have got as good a team spirit as we have and I think arguably they’ve got better players. I do think the pressure is on them, a draw would suit us in the overall standings.”
It’s the first time since the Euros that Wales have had their best Midfield players fit - Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale. Hartson was quick to highlight that if this fixture had come a few weeks prior, Wales would not have been at their full strength:
“If we had a qualifier in February Gareth Bale would not have been fit. If we had a qualifier in the whole of January Aaron Ramsey would not have been fit. We know when we have these players and we are playing well we can cause problems for any team. For me, it’s whoever can deal with the pressure tomorrow night in that red hot atmosphere.”
Andrews admits it will be a very tough game and feels the result could be down to the individual performance from Gareth Bale:
“I don’t want to sound pessimistic but if you offered me a draw I would take it and move on. If you go back two weeks ago before we had this disastrous run of injuries I would have fancied us. I still think we can win but much of that depends on you know who not performing in a Welsh shirt. But I think it’s going to be a really tough and tight game. If you offered Martin [O’Neill] a draw I think he would take it.
The match Kicks off at 7.45pm.