Celtic clash shall shape Scotland’s destiny in Euro 2016 qualifiers
The Republic of Ireland hold a recent edge over Scotland, winning the last two meetings both to nil. Martin O’Neill’s men are therefore 4/1 chances with Coral for victory at fitting venue Celtic Park without conceding again.
Gordon Strachan’s side last let in a goal at home in September 2013, however, winning two of their last three in Glasgow to nil. They are also and alternatively worth considering in that market, then, at 5/2.
Those odds are more attractive than the 11/8 on offer for a Scotland victory in the match betting for this Euro 2016 qualifying Group D game. Ireland are 9/4, with a draw priced at 2/1.
Much of the build-up to this British Isles battle has surrounded Republic internationals Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy choosing Eire instead of the country of their berth.
While allegations that the Everton pair are “traitors” come across as inflammatory and unpleasant, not to mention raising questions of identity just a couple of months after a referendum was held on Scottish independence, it may fire them up.
McGeady, who returns to his old stomping ground for this fixture, is just one danger for Strachan and Tartan Army fans to worry about. The Republic’s record scorer Robbie Keane is another.
Former Spurs striker Keane, who now plies his trade with MLS franchise LA Galaxy, was the scourge of the Scots last time out. He grabbed the only goal in that 2011 encounter, so back Keane again to score first again at 13/2 after hitting a hat-trick against group whipping boys Gibraltar.
Ireland strike partner Shane Long, meanwhile, bagged a brace on his last club outing for Southampton prior to the international break. If punters fancy that form to carry over to his country, back the Saints star for two or more at a tasty 10/1.
Sticking to the theme of doubles and being born in a different country, Londonderry-born James McClean netted twice for the Republic’s last outing in the British Isles, so he is an 11/2 anytime scorer chance.
For Scotland, Strachan has added Rangers winger Lewis Macleod to his options, with a current paucity in wide areas.
While senior debuts looks unlikely for both him and Derby County inclusion Johnny Russell, because of the recent form of Ikechi Anya and Shaun Maloney, Steven Naismith should continue in attack.
Both Maloney (7/2) and Naismith (7/4) were on target last time out in an entertaining away draw in Poland. Steven Fletcher should lead the line again, following four Premier League goals in the last five for club side Sunderland, and is 6/4 to carry that form over to international duty.
Former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy thinks Fletcher, who he coached when in charge of Wolves, is the main Scottish threat. “Fletch and Steven Naismith are playing well,” he said.
“When I was asked about Fletch by other managers, I said he could play in the top four teams in England. He’s still a young man and should be at his peak.
“I don’t see him that much now, but I saw his goals recently against Crystal Palace. His header for the first was fantastic and his second finish was that of a cold, calculated predator.”
Everton forward Naismith, meanwhile, is also available in an enhanced 9/2 wincast. Punters can stake a maximum of £20 on him scoring anytime and Scotland winning.
A score draw will keep both Ireland (11/10) and Scotland (13/10) in the hunt to reach the France finals. Backing their Celtic clash to end 1-1 is a sumptuous 6/1 shot, and there are enough indicators above to suggest that honours will finish even.