Stick With Scotland Over The Boys In Green
Scotland v Rep Of Ireland
Both teams come into the game high in confidence, but who will be feeling chipper at the full time whistle, Scotland or Republic of Ireland?
One win, one draw, and one defeat from their opening three Euro 2016 qualification games leave Scotland’s campaign very much in the balance. A win here would conclude a good solid start to proceedings, while a draw or defeat would mean that they are very much up against it.
It was expected that Germany would run away with Group D leaving Poland, Ireland and Scotland to battle it out for the other remaining automatic qualification spot and a play-off berth. And although Germany are still expected to qualify, recent dropped points against Poland and Ireland for die nationalmannschaft have not helped Scotland’s cause.
Gordon Strachan’s men are now level on four points with the Germans, and three behind both Poland and Ireland who top the group on seven.
Steven Naismith scored the second in a 2-2 draw with Poland last time out, and the Everton striker netted again in the Europa League last Thursday to take his domestic tally for the season to five. Steven Fletcher was also back amongst the goals last week as he scored two in Sunderland’s 3-1 win at Crystal Palace.
Ireland so far have picked up two wins against Gibraltar and Georgia, both games they would expect to win, but the real encouragement came from a 1-1 draw against Germany last time out. John O’Shea marking his 100th cap with an equaliser in the final minute.
Robbie Keane’s hat-trick against Gibraltar further emphasised his position as the country’s top goalscorer, while Aiden McGeady and James McClean also have a couple of goals each for the campaign.
Hearts defender Callum Paterson was drafted into the squad to replace the injured Phil Bardsley earlier in the week, while Johnny Russell has also been called up after Derby teammate Craig Bryson withdrew. Alan Hutton was not included in the squad due to a sprained ankle sustained playing for Aston Villa against Spurs a couple of weeks ago.
James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman have been recalled to the Ireland squad after injury forced the Everton pair to miss the games against Gibraltar and Germany, although the former is a doubt due to a hamstring injury. David McGoldrick and Cyrus Christie have received their first call-ups, but Marc Wilson and Glenn Whelan are unavailable.
Ireland won 1-0 (Robbie Keane) when the nations last met back in May 2011, and also won 2-0 on the previous occasion back in 2003. Scotland’s last win over Ireland came in May 2000 with Don Hutchison and Barry Ferguson scoring in a 2-1 win.
I’ve sided with Scotland in my previews throughout this campaign and have seen no reason to change that approach going into this one where they are priced at an appealing 11/8.
Ireland are in a good position in the group, but it should be noted that four of their seven points came via last minute goals – against Georgia and Germany – and the other three points from the win against Gibraltar.
It could have been a very different story.
I also really like the look of the Over 2.5 goals bet at odds of 7/5. In previous previews I’ve also mentioned Scotland’s new attacking style under Strachan and that has resulted in two of their three qualifiers featuring three goals or more, while Ireland have scored at least once in each of their last two away fixtures.