Martin O’Neill has called on the Republic of Ireland to pick up where they left off against Poland when Scotland visit Dublin for a crucial Euro 2016 qualifier on Saturday.
O’Neill’s side produced a grandstand finish to claim a 1-1 draw with Group D leaders Poland at the Aviva Stadium in March, Shane Long equalising in stoppage time.
A failure to win that game – coupled with victories elsewhere for Germany and Scotland – saw Ireland fall to fourth in their pool, and O’Neill is aware that this weekend’s clash represents a crucial moment in their quest to get to France next year.
“Our job really is to be on the front foot as early as possible in the game – I think that’s important. We’re at home and we want to try and start the game the way we finished against Poland,” said the Ireland boss.
“They’ve got decent pace in the team, and I think they’re confident within themselves. Scotland have got a bit of momentum, but I think we’ve only lost one of our last seven or eight games so we’ve got a bit of momentum.”
O’Neill expects to have captain Robbie Keane available and has the luxury of a fully fit squad to choose from, with the possible exception of Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter, whose hip and groin problems will be assessed.
Scotland sit third in Group D after they reacted to the ignominy of becoming the first team to concede to Gibraltar – Lee Casciaro equalising Shaun Maloney’s early penalty – by hammering the minnows 6-1 at Hampden Park last time out in qualifying.
Gordon Strachan’s men also won the reverse fixture against Ireland in Glasgow by virtue of Maloney’s fine late strike, and forward Steven Naismith is confident they can do the double over their Celtic neighbours.
“What we’ve done so far in the first half of the campaign we have worked so hard for. We believe that going into every game we can get something from it, so this match is no different,” said the Everton man.
“With the first game [against Ireland], we feel that we deserved to win and we did.
“I’m sure we will watch over clips of Ireland and put a game plan together that will mean we go into the game believing we can win.”
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