While fans of the Republic of Ireland and Wales dream of play-off glory tonight, there is also a real possibility that either side could be top of Group D by 10 pm and be assured of their place at the World Cup next summer.
Serbia missed the opportunity to seal their place in Russia as they fell to a late 3-2 defeat in Vienna on Friday.
Slavoljub Muslin’s team now sit just one point ahead of Wales on 18, with the Republic of Ireland two points off the Serbians in third.
Ireland had handed the Serbians the initiative by losing their meeting in Dublin last month. However, should Serbia lose to Georgia in Belgrade tonight then the winner of the clash in Cardiff will top Group D.
Manchester United and Serbia midfielder Nemanja Matic has quashed talk of an upset and insists he and his teammates are not going to blow the great opportunity that sits in front of them.
“People must remember that we are top of the table for a reason,”
“Years of work have been put into this bid to reach the World Cup and we’re not about to shirk our responsibility to the country.” (via Irish Independent)
In a boost to both Chris Coleman and Martin O’Neill, Georgia boss Vladimir Weiss is confident that his team can spoil Serbia’s party despite having little to gain from such a result having already been eliminated.
“Serbia are the best footballing team in the group but I will set the team up tactically to win.”
While a loss in Serbia for the home side looks unlikely both Ireland and Wales will be going for the win in Cardiff with a draw of no use to Martin O’Neill’s men.
Wales on the other hand could still go through with a draw but need other fixtures and decisions to go their way. FIFA’s fair play rule could go against them following Neil Taylor’s dismissal in Dublin in March.
Neither side can afford to be complacent and should either team be in a comfortable winning position attention will soon turn to Belgrade in the hope Georgia could do them a massive favour.
Slovenia did Ireland a massive favour and now the hope is Georgia can once again be a lucky charm for the Irish after the Georgians defeated Scotland in Tbilisi on the road to Euro 2016.
In football you never know.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena