Republic of Ireland vs Scotland – Match preview and team news

Republic of Ireland meet Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in a crucial match which could have a major say in deciding who qualifies for Euro 2016 from the most intriguingly competitive group of all.

This is particularly important for the home side, who will have some catching up to do if they lose this one, after which only four games remain. They currently have eight points, which is two behind Scotland and world champions Germany, and three behind leaders Poland.

The late equaliser scored by Shane Long to salvage a point against the Poles could turn about to be huge for Ireland in the final reckoning, and they are just about hanging in there and keeping pace with the leaders. This will be viewed as a must-win game as they look to finish in a play-off place at the very least, while avenging the defeat in Scotland in November is also high on the agenda.

Along with Stoke City’s Jonathan Walters, it may be down to Long to lead the Irish attack as long-term talisman Robbie Keane could miss out due to the death of two relatives, and Martin O’Neill will have no qualms about rotating his side after they more than held their own in the admittedly dull recent friendly with England.

There was a degree of ignominy for Scotland in their last group outing as they became the first side to concede a goal to minnows Gibraltar, but they got the three points they needed with eventual ease to keep them well in the race to reach the finals in France, with Germany and Poland still to visit Hampden Park in the autumn.

They now have some exciting players in their ranks, with the pace of Ikechi Anya causing problems to numerous opponents and fellow Championship promotion Matt Ritchie applying his flair and unpredictability to the international stage. His winner against Qatar in a friendly in Edinburgh was an ideal way to prepare for this huge clash.

With the top two sides in the group playing the bottom two, neither of these nations can likely expect any favours from elsewhere. Victory for Scotland would leave them in a superb position and cement a place in the top three, while a draw would certainly leave the Tartan Army the happier. It will surely be a tense affair and emotions will inevitably be running high.

The visitors have a fully-fit squad to choose from, but Ireland have doubts over winger Aiden McGeady and have already ruled out midfielder Harry Arter.

 

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