Now that deadline day has come and gone attention switches to international football as Martin O’Neill’s men aim to leave Tbilisi tomorrow night with three massive points against Georgia as the race for World Cup qualification next summer hots up.
The Republic of Ireland will be hoping to maintain their 100% record against Georgia ahead of a vital home clash with Serbia at the Aviva on Tuesday evening.
Having only just beaten Georgia 1-0 last October, following a special strike from captain Seamus Coleman, O’Neill’s men will have to scrap it out in Tibilisi to maintain their lead in group D.
Speaking in the Irish Independent, Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph has claimed Ireland will need to play ugly if they wish to get maximum points.
“You know it’s going to be tough and you have to do the horrible things, the dirty stuff, first and hopefully the quality comes off the back of that.
“In football, you come up against the so-called smaller teams and everyone thinks it’s going to be a walk in the park but a lot of the time those are the hardest games.
“As long as we’re prepared to do that stuff, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t come out on top.”
Georgia have yet to win a game in group D and are destined to be in a battle with Moldova to avoid finishing in last place in the group.
That said, they are a dangerous outfit. Tornike Okriashvili’s equaliser in Cardiff last October saw Chris Coleman’s men drop two crucial points as they hoped to make up ground on Serbia and the Irish.
Both Ireland and Serbia are level on points in group D with 12 points.
Martin O’Neill’s men know just how crucial a win on Tuesday will be for their hopes of making it to Russia next summer, however, Georgia, for now, are the focus of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane.
Serbia will be confident of claiming three points at home to Moldova, meaning both sides could start Tuesday’s clash on 15 points apiece.
Wales, lying in third place and four points behind the Irish and the Serbians know only a win at home to Austria on Saturday will keep them in the race for qualification. With games running out, both sides sit on eight points.
The winner should challenge the top two while the loser is all but out of the race for qualification.
Ciaran Clark and Shane Duffy are available again as is Sunderland’s John O’Shea, leaving Martin O’Neill with a decision to make in defence. Burnley new man Jon Walters appears to have overcome his injury fears and is in contention to start on Saturday evening.
Captain Seamus Coleman is still ruled out after suffering that horrific broken leg against Wales, while O’Neill will also be without Jeff Hendrick and James McCarthy.
Another area of caution for O’Neill concerns Cyrus Christie, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward, Robbie Brady, David Meyler, Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan and Jon Walters who all are on yellow cards. Another on Saturday night will rule them out of Tuesday’s clash with Serbia.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena
Check out the latest episode of The Mixer, where we previewed the Republic of Ireland’s crucial qualifiers and spoke with Longford Town manager Neale Fenn.