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Bale looking to blow Irish away

Frank Monkhouse | 24 March 2017

Ireland host Wales in Friday’s showpiece

There’s a hectic weekend of live international football ahead as we see the World Cup qualifiers back in business. Game of the night on Friday has neighbours Ireland and Wales do battle at the Aviva Stadium over three precious Group D points.

The Irish are out in front, sprinting to the top of the pool and looking on-course for another place at a major tournament. Boss Martin O’Neill has them playing fearless football – and it’s paying off. An opening day draw with Serbia was quickly forgiven thanks to three wins on the bounce. Georgia, Moldova and Austria all put in their place.

Italy v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade Pierre Mauroy

Ireland happy to win ugly

Two of those wins have come with a 1-0 score – vs Georgia and Austria – and the side have rode their luck at times, but football at this point isn’t about looking pretty, it’s aimed at qualifying at all costs, and that’s exactly what they are on target to do. Another hard-fought 1-0 win for the locals will net you a chunky 11/2 at Coral.

O’Neill will welcome back Seamus Coleman, Shane Long and Jonathan Hayes to the starting line-up, after they were handed a break in midweek. James McCarthy will also be given until the last-minute to prove himself fit for the match. He trained on Thursday but has not played since early March. O’Neill must make do without Daryl Murphy, Shane Duffy, Wes Hoolahan, Ciaran Clark, Robbie Brady and Harry Arter.

Backers who want to follow the Irish on Friday will find them priced as 29/20 favourites for the win, while our traders are offering a special bet to ramp up the interest for neutrals – Ireland win and both teams to score at 6/1.

Ramsey to Real Madrid in linked on today's back pages.

Bale the great equaliser

On paper Ireland have the better team, and probably should be winning this in front of their own fans, but we can never write off a Wales side with Gareth Bale in it. The Real Madrid attacker is the great equaliser, capable of turning games on their head in the blink of an eye. Both managers will be well aware of it – Chris Coleman looking to let him off the leash and at the Irish, O’Neill setting out to starve the superstar of the ball.

The Dragons go into game five of their campaign down in third, but just four points off leaders Ireland. An away win here would blow the race for top spot wide-open, while throwing them into the picture for a place in Russia. To do that they will need Bale to continue his recent impressive performances. In the four group matches so far he has netted four goals, including the first in each of their last two.

Gareth Bale to score first again on Friday has been chalked up at 4/1, while our traders have boosted him from even money to 7/4 to grab a goal at anytime during the match. That looks a great piece of value. Coral’s new customers will also get a stunning 33/1 on him to score. Click here to get your share of that.

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