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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Ireland unlikely to roll over Moldova

Visitors lack a cutting edge

Shane Duffy of Ireland
1 of 1

World Cup qualifier
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Saturday

Ireland should land maximum points as they look to keep their World Cup dream alive but but it may not be particularly pretty against Moldova in Dublin.

The mood around the Aviva Stadium will be determined to some extent by events in Georgia with group rivals Wales in action earlier, although whatever happens in that contest Ireland should justify their tag as long odds-on favourites.

Martin O'Neill's men have triumphed in just one of their last seven encounters and have seen their hopes of automatic qualification to Russia slip away with a lack of goals the obvious problem.

Ireland have scored just three times in their last five competitive games and a bet on the hosts to win a game of three or fewer goals could be the route to profit.

O'Neill's teams have always tended to be pragmatic and Ireland have scored only seven times in their last nine competitive home games since putting seven past Gibraltar in October 2014.

Moldova are not as bad as Gibraltar even though they have lost four of their last five qualifying matches to nil.

Gareth Bale's last-gasp penalty earned Wales a 4-0 win over Moldova last year and the underdogs have mainly been competitive with defeats to Austria by 1-0 and 2-0 margins as well as a 2-0 defeat in Sweden and 3-0 at Serbia last time out.

More football

Georgia v Wales

World Cup qualifiers

Ireland don't have anyone like Bale in their squad and the absence of Robbie Brady takes one creative avenue away from O'Neill, who at least saw Shane Long declare himself fit.

Long, however, has not scored a Premier League goal this season and last notched for Southampton at Sunderland in February.

Jonathan Walters is sidelined and wide duo James McClean and Seamus Coleman must also sit this one out, so the options are thin for Ireland.

A resounding success would seem unlikely given the players missing and the way the group has worked out means that significantly improving the goal difference is not likely to matter.

It could be argued O'Neill's side might ease off once the points are assured because qualification will almost certainly come down to Monday's potential humdinger against Wales in Cardiff. Ireland should make that short trip in decent spirits.

Ireland to win & under 3.5 goals
1pt 5-6 Betway

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Team news
Robbie Brady and James McClean are suspended and James McCarthy is doubtful. Jonathan Walters and Seamus Coleman are injured.

Maxim Mihailov is injured.

Key stat
Ireland's nine matches in Group D have produced just 15 goals.

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Qualification will almost certainly come down to Monday's potential humdinger against Wales in Cardiff
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