By Ed Leahy
Ireland’s opponents have scored ten goals in their last two World Cup qualifiers and have made the contest for second place into a three-horse race as Marcel Koller’s side have seven points from four games played.
The Austria boss has yet to name his side but is unlikely to disrupt a winning formula and will be confident of getting a result in Dublin tonight.
So let’s take a quick look at the starting XI that are likely to face Ireland at the Aviva:
Just three caps to his name, the Austrian keeper made his international debut against Ukraine in a friendly last summer. The 22-year-old plays his club football at Austria Vienna and is first choice with the league leaders. Surely Ireland will attempt to target the rookie keeper in the early stages of tonight’s game.
An attacking full-back who has spent the last six years playing in Italy, after moving to Napoli from Rapid Vienna and currently playing for Bologna.
Garics will probably provide stiffer competition than Sweden’s Mikael Lustig for James McClean and the Sunderland winger will also have plenty of defensive duties. Garics was on target in Austria’s victory on Friday.
Playing his club football for Basel, the 22-year-old is a relative newcomer to the international scene with only 19 caps for his country. Dragovic will face a tough night physically with Conor Sammon and Shane Long putting continued pressure on the Austrian back four.
The 30-year-old centre-half has won over 50 caps for his country and is well known in these parts after playing for five years at Middlesbrough from 2005 to 2010, before moving to German side Hannover 96 and more recently Wolfsburg.
The former Austria captain is back playing in the English Premier League after joining West Ham on loan.
Christian Fuchs (capt)
Fuchs is a full-back who is happy to bomb up and down the left wing and will be looking to counter Seamus Coleman who will be doing likewise for the Irish.
Should be an interesting battle and Jon Walters will need to be on hand to cover the runs of the skipper.
A stalwart of the Austria midfield, Ivanschitz will be vital man to watch for Ireland midfield duo Whelan and McCarthy. The Mainz midfielder can also grab a goal or two and scored from distance on Friday night against the Faroes.
Currently playing his club football at Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, Arnautovic is a wide midfielder who can also play in attack and is dangerous from dead-ball set pieces.
Arnautovic has been labelled as a player with an attitude problem and while on loan at Inter Milan, Jose Mourinho described him as “a fantastic person but has the attitude of a child”.
Bayern Munich left-back Alaba plays in the midfield for his national side and will need to be kept quiet in tonight’s encounter. Alaba has an eye for goal and scored in Friday’s victory over the Faroe Islands as well as the previous win over Kazakhstan.
Julian Baumgartlinger or Chirstoph Leitgeb
Either Baumgartlinger or Leitgeb will come into the midfield should Veli Kavlak miss out through injury. Kavlak was replaced early in the second half in the victory over the Faroe Islands on Friday.
Red Bull Salzburg’s Leitgeb came on in Friday’s clash but coach Marcel Koller may be tempted to use Mainz man Baumgartlinger.
Another attacking threat from midfield, the classy number ten grabbed a goal in Friday’s victory as well as scoring in the narrow defeat to Germany last September. The attacking midfielder will be a handful for John O’Shea or Ciaran Clark who may be dragged out of position to keep tabs on the Werder Bremen man.
The in-form striker should keep his place in attack despite the return to fitness of veteran striker Marc Janko. Hosiner bagged a brace in Friday’s victory over the Faroes and has scored 22 league goals for Austria Vienna, who top the table.