Home Nations Preview

This week, the action turns to the international stage and the home nations are ready to pounce.

Here, we look at the other home nations’ fixtures during a crucial international break.

Republic of Ireland

On Friday night, the Republic of Ireland face Wales at the Aviva stadium looking to open up a seven point gap over their opponents.

A win for Ireland could provide them with the confidence to kick-on and finish the qualifying campaign on top of Group D.

Ireland are currently unbeaten in Group D with three wins and one draw out of four games with this game, against Wales, being their second home game in the group.

However, Martin O’Neill is faced with a shortage of strikers after the withdrawal of Newcastle’s Daryl Murphy, which means veteran striker Kevin Doyle comes into the squad in his place.

Murphy becomes the fifth player to withdraw due to injury after, Shane Duffy, Wes Hoolahan, Ciaran Clark and Harry Arter all pulled out earlier in the week after their respective league matches.

Ireland will hope James McClean can recapture his international form from the autumn after he scored three times in two games against Moldova and crucially, the winner against Austria.

After Friday’s encounter at the Aviva stadium, Ireland host the side that famously knocked England out of the European Championships last summer, Iceland.

This game could be an opportunity to give other players in the squad game time at the international stage.

Kick off is at 7:45 on the 28th March.

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Wales

As mentioned above, Wales and Ireland meet in that enthralling encounter in Dublin on Friday night, 7:45 KO.

Chris Coleman’s side must win if they are going to challenge for automatic qualification into next years world cup.

Wales themselves are unbeaten so far in their campaign, however, they have drawn three out of the four games they have played, including a disappointing 1-1 draw to Georgia back in October.

The Welsh dragons have included the Liverpool youngsters Ben Woodburn and Harry Wilson in their squad for the upcoming clash with Ireland.

Woodburn has yet to make a senior cap for Wales, unlike Wilson, who became Wales’ youngest capped senior player at the age of 16 years and 207 days back in 2013 against Belgium.

Wales only have the Ireland game to focus on after they did not organize a friendly match to be played after the qualifier on Friday night.

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Scotland

Scotland face Slovenia in a must win game on Sunday at Hampden Park.

Scotland sit fifth in Group F and face a huge task in order to qualify for the World Cup in 2018.

Gordon Strachan’s side have four points from four games, most recently losing 3-0 at Wembley to group leaders England.

October’s unexpected draw at home to Lithuania looked to have signaled the end of Gordon Strachan’s tenure as Scotland boss but he has kept his place, despite the recent loses in qualifying to Slovakia and England respectfully.

They are without West Brom winger Matt Phillips, Blackburn’s Grant Hanley and Crystal Palace’s James McArthur through injury.

Their opponents Slovenia are, along with England, unbeaten in Group F with two wins and two draws from their opening four matches.

One of those draws came against England back in October in a match that they deserved to win, so they will pose a threat to the Scots on Sunday.

Before that Scotland face Canada in a friendly on Wednesday night, 7:45 KO at Hampden Park.

Strachan’s men will look forward to this game and use it as a chance to warm-up for the encounter with Slovenia, allowing the team to gain an understanding after a prolonged period away from the international stage.

 

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Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland are in the same boat as Wales this week as they only have to face one match.

That match is a world cup qualifier in Group C vs Norway on Sunday, 7:45 kick off.

Northern Ireland are in an healthy position in group C after four games. They have managed two wins, one draw and one loss, with that solitary loss coming against World Champions Germany back in October.

Michael O’Neill is without cult figure Will Grigg due to injury and midfielder Shane Ferguson due to suspension.

A win for Michael O’Neill’s men could put them three points ahead in second position should results go their way in the other matches in the group.

Norway, on the other hand, are in a disappointing fifth place with only one win which came against bottom side San Marino.

However a win for Norway will put them one point behind Northern Ireland and would earn them their first away win this campaign.

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