The Republic of Ireland welcome Georgia to Tallaght Stadium for tonight's World Cup qualifier in what is now, by the manager’s admission, a "must-win" game.
Tonight’s game marks the halfway point in the campaign as Ireland are targeting a second-placed finish in Group A, which would guarantee a play-off place in a bid to reach the 2023 tournament in Australia and New Zealand.
Victory tonight over Georgia would put Pauw’s side in a strong position going into the second four-game stretch in 2022, as they would move into second place, one point clear of Finland.
The Irish, of course, have already beaten their Group A rivals and will have home advantage the next time that the two sides meet – a game that will most likely decide second place, however, there was concern with Ireland’s performance on Thursday night as the team dropped two vital points.
The home game with Slovakia was seen as a very winnable game for the Irish, however, they were unable to control the tempo against a hard working and tough tackling side, who will now have the confidence to play their way into the mix for the play-offs in the second half of the campaign.
Looking back on the game, the manager said that she was not as disappointed as she was immediately after the game and takes heart with the fact that her team created more than enough chances to win the game.
In the end, they had to chase the game as Slovakia caught Ireland out of position just after the break, and the manager was thankful for a point in the end, in a game that her side could have lost.
Katie McCabe rescued Ireland on Thursday with a typically impressive finish to secure a point and keep their fate in their own hands.
The captain was carrying a foot injury into that game in Slovakia, however, McCabe came through unscathed and the manager confirmed that she had taken a full part in training and is fully fit ahead of the Georgia tie.
Pauw said that there would be changes going into the game as her side look to make a statement with a convincing victory against Georgia.
Megan Walsh came into the squad ahead of the Slovakia game to add strength to the goalkeeping department, however, the Brighton keeper will have to wait a bit longer to make her international debut as Pauw confirmed that Courtney Brosnan would remain in goal.
Brosnan appears to be the number one choice now, having started all three campaign games, and the Everton keeper put in an assured performance against Slovakia aside from one heavy touch on a back-pass, where she needed Louise Quinn to bail her out with a goal-line clearance.
Playing against a weaker side tonight, there is a chance that Pauw will name a more attacking side, however, she appears happy with the formation, which she feels suits the team.
And it is already a fairly attack-minded formation, which should again be on show this evening with a three-player defence sitting in front of the goalkeeper.
Louise Quinn and Niamh Fahey are well established in that role within the team, however, the manager may be tempted to bring Diane Caldwell back into the side, as the battle-worn defender is also a threat from set-pieces and tends to play well alongside Quinn.
Aine O’Gorman and Katie McCabe are likely to remain in the wing-back positions on the right and left flank respectively, however, there could be changes in the middle of the park.
Ruesha Littlejohn made a big impact when she came on in the second half against Slovakia, while Denise O’Sullivan is so adaptable, she could easily be utilised in a deeper role, allowing Pauw to make room for another attacker, like Amber Barrett, who has been used in midfield as well as in attack.
Pauw appears to be sticking with Lucy Quinn in attack, although she acknowledged that her partnership with Heather Payne was still a work in progress.
Payne is missing from tonight’s line-up, as she has exam commitments at college back in the States, however, Kyra Carusa looks set to start up front.
Carusa has shown fine form at club level over the past two seasons, where she plays for Danish side HB Koge, and recently led the line in the Champions League against Arsenal and Barcelona.
Pauw has yet to unearth a goalscoring centre-forward with the goals during her reign spread out across the team, and tonight, against the perceived weaker side, there is a great opportunity to stake a claim for the remainder of the campaign.
San Diego native Carusa is seen by Pauw as a goalscorer, so the manager will be looking to see how she links up with Quinn, if both are selected.
Pauw decided against calling up Rhianna Jarrett in place of the absent Payne, which suggests that she would rather have a look at Birmingham striker Emily Whelan or Shelbourne’s Saoirse Noonan, and one or both might get a run off the bench tonight.
Georgia sit rock bottom in the group having lost all three games, while they have yet to score, losing to Sweden, Finland and Slovakia.
And while Ireland should win if they play even close to their potential, the manager is aware that her side’s formation will offer Georgia hope of hitting on the counterattack.
Pauw is wary of the pace that the visitors possess in attack, however, her side are generally so well-drilled that their chances on goal should certainly be limited.
After tonight’s game, there will be a four-month break in the international calendar with Ireland’s next match, away to Sweden in early April.
Pauw’s side have been building momentum over the past 12 months with impressive victories over higher-ranked sides Australia and Finland, however, there was a bit of a reality check on Thursday against Slovakia, showing that this Irish side are still far from the finished article.
But a convincing victory in front of another large crowd at Tallaght Stadium tonight should see that confidence growing once again and will offer this Irish side real hope heading into the second half of the World Cup qualifying campaign in the New Year.