Big Match Breakdown: Denmark v Republic of Ireland
First-leg takes place in Copenhagen
After an arduous qualifying campaign, once again it will all come down to the World Cup play-offs for the Republic of Ireland.
Their opponents this time will be Denmark. The Danes missed out on top spot by five points in Group E, while the Irish narrowly qualified after victory over Wales in their final group game.
Here, the Coral News Team bring you the big match breakdown ahead of tonight’s clash in Copenhagen…
Ireland should be buoyed heading into this one following their crucial victory over the Welsh last time out. In a performance that showed grit, determination and that clinical touch in-front of goal, Martin O’Neill’s side secured a vital 1-0 win courtesy of James McClean’s second-half strike.
That victory in Cardiff forms part of a run of just one defeat in six for the Irish. However, even more impressively they’ve only lost one of their last six away games.
With Denmark so consistent at home – the Danes have only lost two in 14 on their own turf – that record on the road could prove crucial for the Boys in Green. In-fact, tonight’s hosts are in even better form than their visitors. They’ve won four of their last five and are without defeat since a 1-0 home reverse to Montenegro one year ago today.
And while fixtures between the two nations are rare, Ireland have prevailed the previous two times the countries have met. A convincing 3-0 victory in 2002 was followed up by an even more impressive showing five years later when the Irish prevailed 4-0 away from home against the Danes.
The Likely XIs
David Meyler will miss the game through suspension, which should allow Glenn Whelan to come in alongside Conor Hourihane and Harry Arter.
James McCarthy, Richard Keogh and Sean Maguire have all pulled out as a result of injury, while Jeff Hendrick is a doubt and could start from the bench. Shane Long is expected to lead the line-up front as Martin O’Neill opts for a 4-5-1 setup.
For the hosts, Nicklas Bendtner looks set to start up-top with the dangerous Christian Eriksen in behind. Defence is the only area that manager Age Hareide could tinker with, although it would not be a surprise if he stuck with the partnership of Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjaer.
With no injury concerns or suspension worries for hosts – they have a full roster to choose from for the first-leg.
Martin O’Neill should set his side up to soak up the Danish pressure before hitting them on the break. Long will provide an outlet up-front to go direct, while the pace of Robbie Brady and James McClean is key to the structure of the game – especially if the visitors are to come away with the narrow victory that they so crave.
However, if Ireland are to have any chance, they’ll need to stem Eriksen’s influence on the match. The Tottenham Hotspur star is one of the best players in Europe at the moment and will be pulling the strings for the Danes going forward. He’s scored in each of Denmark’s last six internationals and will need significant attention from the Irish defensive contingent. Thomas Delaney, too, should not be ignored.
Despite what promises to be a tight game, Denmark are odds-on favourites for a first-leg advantage at 7/10. Ireland are tantalisingly priced at 19/4, while the draw is available at 12/5.
With the visitors looking to keep it tight before heading back to the Aviva Stadium, the Coral News Team like the look of the Draw and Under 2.5 Goals 11/4.
In terms of goalscorers, Eriksen is the obvious option at 23/10 for the hosts. If you think he’ll net the first goal in the contest, you can get him at 6/1 to open the scoring. For the Irish, McClean is a 10/1 chance to land the opening blow in the contest, while it’s 7/2 for him to find the back of the net anytime.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing