The Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin 4
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Cloudy and windy on Tuesday with scattered outbreaks of rain and drizzle throughout the afternoon, but easing into the evening. Highs of 14 to 17 in a fresh southwest win.
TIME TO GIVE THE FANS SOMETHING TO CHEER
Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland team have now won just one game from their last eight and are starting to look like a team struggling to find an identity.
Ireland supporters were served up another tepid performance against Denmark and while their side avoided defeat, there was little in the way of attacking ambition or flair on show from the home side.
There’s the sense that patience is starting to wear thin among supporters. There were still some valiant efforts from the fans to get behind their side but the swathes of empty seats and uninspiring football meant that there was a subdued, almost pre-season friendly feeling to the 0-0 draw with the Danes.
The sight of those vacant seats around the Aviva Stadium is one that’s starting to become more and more prominent while the FAI’s ‘official’ attendance figures look more and more inaccurate. However, there may be hope in the short term at least.
O’Neill, whose tactics were described as ‘primitive’ by Denmark’s Thomas Delaney on Saturday has pledged to try and get more out of his side as an attacking force against the Welsh and said: "We’ve got to try and be more creative if we can be."
"We’ve got to try and use the ball in the final third and be confident on it. We are playing at home and need to get on the front foot as quickly as possible and try and dictate the game."
Whether those sentiments translate into a more exciting Ireland team remains to be seen.
WILL DOHERTY GET ANOTHER CHANCE?
Much of the build-up to the Denmark game was centred on whether or not Matt Doherty would be handed his first competitive start.
The Wolves wing-back did indeed start against the Danes and the vague prospect of him deciding that he’d rather make use of his mother’s nationality and declare for the Netherlands, than sit around on the Irish bench is no longer a worry.
For the most part, Doherty’s performance level against Denmark matched those of his team-mates, although it can’t have been easy switching from the slick passing game that Nuno Espírito Santo prefers to the kick and rush tactics that O’Neill employed on Saturday.
Doherty spent much of the game looking up into the night sky as the ball travelled high over his head from defence, up towards Shane Long and yet O’Neill seemed to lay at least a small portion of the blame for Ireland’s limp display at the feet of the Wolves man.
"We were accommodating young Doherty as much as anything else," the Irish boss said.
"We were trying to make it as easy for him as possible. He has played in a number of positions for Wolves. And in his debut in front of his home crowd competitively, we wanted to try and make it as easy for him as possible."
The fact that Doherty has been overlooked by O’Neill so often in the past leads to the niggling suspicion that the manager felt pressured into including him against the Danes. Now that he’s given him a competitive game and the player didn’t shine, the Irish boss may feel like his choice to leave out Doherty in the past has been vindicated.
IRELAND AIDED BY ABSENTEES
Ireland benefited from Christian Erikssen’s absence on Saturday, with Denmark looking far less dangerous without the services of the Tottenham man and they look set to receive a similar boost from Welsh injury issues.
Gareth Bale was Ireland’s chief tormentor in Cardiff in September, pulling the strings and controlling the tempo of the game as well as getting on the scoresheet in the 4-1 Welsh victory.
The Real Madrid man will miss Tuesday’s game in Dublin through injury, as will teenager Ethan Ampadu, who tormented the Irish defence in Cardiff and has been ruled out with a knee injury.
Also missing is Arsenal attacker Aaron Ramsey, who found himself among the goals against Ireland in September. Ramsey has been given leave to return home to deal with family issues with Swansea winger Daniel James called up from the under-21s to take his place.
For Wales to be without one of the trio would be a blow to their attacking hopes but for all three of them to be out means that Ryan Giggs’ side are suddenly looking blunt up top.
David Brooks of Bournemouth, Burnley’s Sam Vokes and Derby’s Tom Lawrence look the likeliest to be named in the Welsh attack and there’s little to suggest that the Irish defence wouldn’t be able to cope with them.
There is still reason to hope for Ireland supporters. As mentioned, Wales’ attacking absentees leave them looking like a distinctly different side for the one that bossed and bullied Ireland in Cardiff.
The Welsh have also failed to kick on from that 4-1 victory. The ‘new-manager bounce’ that Ryan Giggs brought has swiftly faded and convincing defeats against Denmark and Spain, leave the Welsh with just one win from their last four games.
Ireland at home are historically a tough team to score against and with a second-string Welsh attack being sent to Dublin, O’Neill can afford to set his team up in such a way that they won’t be solely focused on stopping the opposition from scoring, as they seemed to be against Denmark.
This is a game that Ireland can’t afford to lose, with relegation to the third tier of the Nations League the likely outcome. Defeat to Wales would leave Ireland hoping that Wales then beat Denmark and then needing a final day victory over Denmark in Copenhagen.
Victory on the other hand would see Ireland leapfrog the Welsh and draw level with Denmark at the top of the group and there’s no reason to believe that O’Neill won’t send his side out to win rather than to avoid being beaten.
Expect a quiet and controlled first-half display from Ireland with Shane Long again left to plough a lone furrow up front. Should all go to plan and Ireland avoiding conceding in the first half, the Irish manager is likely to take a more pro-active approach in the second half with the likes of Jeff Hendrick and Harry Arter given more on attacking brief.
As always, dead-balls around the Welsh penalty area will be crucial and if Ireland can nick a goal from a free-kick or a corner, it may well be enough.
Prediction: Ireland 1-0 Wales