This weekends fixtures were always going to be crucial in terms of our qualification hopes. The fact that they were very favourable for us on paper made them even more important. We were always going to beat Gibraltar, it was just a question of by how much. The big story on Friday though was Scotland losing to Georgia. It was always going to be a sticky fixture for the Scots but I still didn't see them losing it. Best I was hoping for was a draw but for them to lose was a massive boost to not only our chances of qualification but also to Martin O Neill and his players.
I thought the performance against Gibraltar was professional without ever being eye catching. They done what they had to do, we scored four goals and picked up no suspensions or injuries. All in all a decent nights work.
Robbie Keane did what Robbie Keane does, score goals. Ciaran Clark & Cyrus Christie were the surprise inclusions and both done quite well. I think Clark has a real chance of establishing himself as one of the regular centre halves considering he's performing week in week out in the Premiership with Aston Villa. John O Shea is nearing the end, Mark Wilson is struggling for game time at Stoke and Richard Keogh is playing at a lower level with an ordinary Derby County team.
So this is definitely a real opportunity for Clark and one which I hope he grabs because I rate him highly. Cyrus Christie played well considering he has been out in the cold at his club but we all expect to see Seamus Coleman line out Monday against Georgia. I didn't think there was any need for Glen Whelan on Friday considering the opposition. We could have easily went with McCarthy & Hendrick in the middle which would of allowed us another attacking player possibly James McClean or Aiden McGeady. Little Wes was his usual bag of tricks linking everything together and Walters was tiresome in his work as he always is in a green jersey. As i said earlier all in all a decent nights work.
On to Georgia now and a game that will really make or break us in the group. We have got to get the win simple as that. We could open up a little gap between ourselves and Scotland with three points especially with them playing Germany.
I don't expect them to take anything from that game so three points for us is imperative. The last two games for Scotland is their easier games so we have to capitalise on the layout of the fixtures Monday night. Poland will beat Gibraltar and move to 17 points so a win for us takes us to 15 and gives us a massive opportunity in our last two games. We would then have a cushion over Scotland and could have a right pop off Germany at home and then Poland away in October
Martin O Neill is very difficult to read in terms of his team selection. We have had no consistency in our line up throughout this campaign so it will be difficult yet again to predict his team for Georgia. If fit Coleman will come back into the line up and I'm happy to see Clark alongside O Shea. Robbie Brady has performed very well at left full back and he's such a threat from his set pieces. They could prove crucial Monday.
The fact that we are at home and have to win I wouldn't go with Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy and Jeff Hendrick are more than capable of playing in a two in that central midfield area. McCarthy still hasn't hit the heights in a green jersey that we see from him at Everton but no better time than Monday to put in a commanding performance.
Weso will play ahead of those two and he's been fantastic for Ireland in this campaign. The fact that he was discarded for years still leaves a bad taste when you see just how good he is but at least he's playing consistently now. I'd go Walters and McClean in the wide areas. Walters is Mr Reliable in a green jersey. A willing runner who annoys and torments defenders at every opportunity. He has an eye for goal too and has never let himself down when lining out for Ireland. McClean as we know is very direct and can offer us a lot ahead of Brady, he's infectious in his enthusiasm and gets the crowd going. We must win so I want to see as much attacking options on the pitch as possible.
The centre forward position is the one which will gather the most debate with Mr Dependable Robbie Keane scoring another two on Friday but Shane Long also scored. I'd go for Long because of what he can offer in general play. He is a nuisance to defenders and he is a real threat in behind with his pace. Granted he doesn't take his chances anywhere near as well as Keane but Friday's goal will give him a real boost and he seems to be a real confidence player. No better man than Keane to spring from the bench if he's needed but hopefully we are two up at that stage.
I really fancy us to win Monday and that's how I'd line up, do you agree or who would you go with?
Alan Cawleyblog comments powered by Disqus