Euro 2016 qualifiers: Republic of Ireland target crucial Georgia win
After climbing above Scotland to third place in Group D, the Republic of Ireland can close in on Euro 2016 qualification with a victory over Georgia on home soil, a nation they have beaten in all six of their previous meetings stretching back to 2003.
Martin O’Neill’s Boys in Green comfortably rallied to a 4-0 triumph over group whipping boys Gibraltar, a result which saw them move within two points of an automatic qualification spot which Poland currently hold.
The Irish are 7/4 with Coral to earn a win at the Aviva Stadium by two or more goals (max stake £20), with Georgia having struggled to make an impact in this tight Group D, despite a recent shock 1-0 win over Gordon Strachan’s stuttering Scots.
A demanding O’Neill has challenged his side to build upon their recent win over Gibraltar and push towards securing a place in France next summer.
“There is no point beating Gibraltar if we do not get it right on Monday night,” stated O’Neill. “It will not be easy because Georgia will be coming here on a high.
“They had a great victory over Scotland and there is a renewed spirit about them. We will have to deal with that.”
The Derry-born boss is set to be boosted by the return of Everton full back Seamus Coleman, after the Donegal defender sat out the previous triumph due to a hamstring injury, but the 26-year-old is likely to feature once again.
Derby County’s Cyrus Christie deputised in the absence of Coleman against Gibraltar and enjoyed an impressive second cap, striking his first international goal, though he is set to return to the bench this time out.
Ireland skipper John O’Shea believes his side have a genuine chance of reaching, not just a play-off position, but an automatic qualifying place, if they can grab a result again Georgia.
“If we can beat Georgia, you are not just talking about a play-off. There would be a chance of automatic qualification,” declared the Sunderland defender.
“That is what is in our hands. The home game against Germany is going to be difficult. Then we have to go to Poland who we felt we should have beaten at home. We know we can get a result there, but let’s beat Georgia first.”
Robbie Keane is now the highest international goal scorer still active worldwide after his brace against Gibraltar, and another strike against Georgia would see him become the joint 12th all-time finisher alongside German legend Gerd Muller.
The LA Galaxy frontman is 2/1 to fire Ireland to victory (max stake £20), earning another career milestone in the process, while Aiden McGeady is 11/4 to add to his double in the reverse fixture at anytime.
Georgia have only managed to net five times so far in qualifying, with two of those coming from Tornike Okriashvili, including one against Ireland last September, and the Genk midfielder is 11/2 to strike again anytime in Dublin.
With Scotland having to host world champions Germany after their recent defeat, a seventh consecutive victory over Georgia would see O’Neill’s men take a huge step towards a place at Euro 2016 next summer.