Five key German battles for Ireland in crucial Euro 2016 qualifier
Martin O’Neill will soon lead his Republic of Ireland side out at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for their most important game to date during a tough Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, with world champions Germany their latest Group D challengers.
Ahead of the Emerald Isle’s vital clash on home soil against the group leaders, here are five key battles that will take place all over the Aviva turf, as Ireland search for a result which will boost their currently-held play-off position.
Experienced Sunderland centre back O’Shea is set for a testing evening in Dublin, with Bayern Munich marksman Muller having enjoyed sublime club form in the Bundesliga this season, netting 10 goals in 11 outings so far.
The prolific poacher is 4/1 with Coral to open proceedings, although it was O’Shea that became the goal scoring hero in the reverse clash on German soil, sensationally bagging a last-gasp equaliser to rescue a vital point in a 1-1 draw.
Ireland will need a strong showing from their veteran defender in order to gain a positive result over Joachim Low’s dominant force, but the former Manchester United versatility player has proved he can perform solidly when donning the green shirt.
After the damaging loss of Seamus Coleman through injury, Derby County’s Christie should earn only his third international cap at right back, though the 23-year-old is capable of putting in a strong shift based on his first two outings.
The Rams full back struck his maiden Ireland goal against Gibraltar on his second appearance, but will be involved in the most daunting test yet against World Cup winning attacker Gotze, who literally fired Germany to glory in Brazil.
Christie will need to deal with the pace and direct approach of Munich’s threatening wideman, with Borussia Dortmund forward Marco Reus also possibly set to feature on the left side of midfield as some stage as well.
Ireland could have two Derby stars in their line-up for Germany’s visit to the capital, with Hendrick possibly ready to take up a deeper midfield role in the absence of the suspended Glenn Whelan.
The talented Championship midfielder produced a moment of brilliance against Georgia as Irish hopes looked to be fading, dancing past the defence before teeing-up Jonathan Walters to tap-in from close range and secure a vital three points.
Attacking duties from deep will have to come in moderation against the swift-passing Mesut Ozil, who is always a danger, but those duties will be shared with Everton playmaker James McCarthy, as they aim to contain Arsenal’s creative genius.
The slick playmaker recently helped Arsene Wenger’s Gunners demolish Man Utd at the Emirates and his superb form could mean trouble for Ireland, if Hendrick cannot deal with his attacking onslaught throughout 90 minutes, making him 10/3 to net anytime.
Norwich City’s Hoolahan has set the Premier League alight with his creative Canaries displays, with only Manchester City’s David Silva making more assists than the deadly Dubliner so far this season.
Ireland will be hoping their little maestro can produce the goods again, though he faces a tough task in the central areas against Real Madrid’s possession-king Toni Kroos and Old Trafford midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Kroos is key to starting Germany’s attacks from deep, and even scored against the Irish at home, though he is also forceful when halting his opponents moving forward, which means Hoolahan will need to perform at his best in green to unlock Die Mannschaft’s defence.
Stoke City’s towering forward Walters is always a threat and can easily pop up with a vital goal for club and country, having dispatched four times this term for Ireland and the Potters in eight impressive outings.
Against Dortmund’s sought-after centre back Hummels, the Premier League poacher will again need to utilise his strength to help create space for fellow attackers Robbie Keane and Hoolahan, with the Stoke striker 10/3 to fire home again anytime on home territory.
This could potentially be a deciding battle in Dublin, with Walters’ strong stature something O’Neill will look to utilise, especially from set-pieces, as they fight for a place among Europe’s elite in France next summer.