Verdict: Away win
Best Odds: 4/5
Out-of-sorts Georgia will be looking for the first win of the campaign when they host joint group leaders Republic of Ireland in Tbilisi and produce another good performance against the same opposition having impressed in the 1-0 defeat in Dublin. The Irish can make an important step towards World Cup qualification with a win in Tbilisi and that is precisely what they are hoping to achieve.
Georgia have so far had 11 unsuccessful attempts to qualify for a major international tournament and we don’t expect the barren run to end any time soon. The Crusaders only finished in third place in their qualifying campaigns on two occasions, while finishing bottom of their group on another three, so it is fair to say their results have been less than impressive. The team do appear to have closed the gap behind top European sides, as witnessed by some narrow defeats over the last few years, but they have yet to make that next step and become truly competitive. The current campaign started with narrow losses to Austria and Republic of Ireland and continued with back to back draws against Wales and Moldova. The home defeat to Serbia and another draw with Moldova definitely ended their qualifying hopes, leaving the team with just three points from six games. Georgia did hammer Latvia and St Kitts and Nevis in their last two home games, but those were not exactly good tests for what awaits them against in-form Republic of Ireland.
Important midfielder Jaba Kankava misses out through suspension, whereas talented forward Nika Katcharava is out through a virus.
Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland have flourished under the guidance of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, reaching the Euro 2016 knockout stages and giving hosts France a good run for their money in the Last 16 phase. Buoyed by the success, the Irish continued in the same manner as the 2018 World Cup qualifiers started, taking 12 points from first six games to climb to second in the group, with leaders Serbia only boasting superior goal difference. Republic of Ireland only won one of four matches against direct competitors, but did not lose a single one, and they now have a chance to secure their place at the tournament finals ahead of the trip to Wales in the final game. After the trip to Georgia, the Irish will play host to Moldova and Serbia, meaning they stand a decent chance of recording three straight wins. With the new season starting few weeks back, their key men should be in good shape and no wonder Martin O’Neill’s charges have been made odds-on favourites to defeat Georgia on the road.
Jonathan Walters has resumed training after recovering from an ankle problem, but John O’Shea is doubtful through a calf injury.
Jeff Hendrick, James McCarthy and Eunan O’Kane have all been ruled out, but Aiden McGeady is in contention after attending the birth of his son.
Key Factors to Consider
- Georgia winless and Ireland unbeaten in the current campaign
- Both teams scored in five of Georgia’s six qualifiers
- Ireland won four of last eight WC qualifiers on the road (D2 L2)
- The Irish won each of their eight meetings with Georgia
- Georgia failed to score in three of their last four meetings
Georgia have proved they can be competitive in this qualifying campaign, but with nothing to play for, we doubt they can put a dent into Ireland’s qualifying hopes. Martin O’Neill’s side have matured a great deal and we trust them to secure a valuable victory in Tbilisi.
Verdict: Away win
Best Odds: 4/5
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