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With some of Europe’s biggest sides still waiting for their World Cup faith to be decided, these final two groups stage games are critically important.
The likes of reigning World Cup champions, Germany have already qualified along with Switzerland, Serbia, England, Spain and Belgium but with many play-off spots are still up for grabs.
Some superpowers of Europe still have it all to do with Croatia, Wales, Ireland, Iceland, Bosnia, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Portugal and Sweden all bidding for a place at the world’s top table. Here are some the most anticipated fixtures and possible outcomes from the upcoming week.
Montenegro V Denmark
Wednesday night sees a winner takes all fixture, as Montenegro and Denmark, who are both locked on 16 points, battle it out for second place in Group E.
With Poland very likely to get all three points away to Armenia in the early kick-off, the pressure will be on these two to secure the win.
A draw is useless for both sides as 17 points is unlikely to be enough to be one of the 8 best runner-up teams in the hunt for a play-off spot.
Both sides are in decent form but the favourites tag has to be given to the Eastern Europeans. Playing at home in front of their hostile fans is a daunting task for any visiting side. Stefan Jovetic and his team mates should have enough to push aside this Danish challenge.
Turkey V Iceland
With Iceland two points ahead of Turkey and having to travel to the Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadı, one would think the European minnows would be set up for a draw.
That can be a very dangerous game.
The Turks are a very dangerous side and if the Icelandic’s were to concede early, their game plan and confidence would go straight out the window. Iceland came away with a famous 2-0 win at the Laugardalsvöllur back in October of last year, so the onus is completely on Turkey. Iceland should do enough to secure second place in Group I.
Georgia V Wales and Wales V Republic of Ireland
Wales enter a season defining period of their international calendar.
A tricky away trip to Georgia is followed up by an almighty clash with local rivals, Republic of Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side currently sit 2nd in Group D on 14 points, one clear of Ireland and four behind Serbia.
An away trip to Tbilisi is never easy as Ireland unfortunately found out as they were held to a dour 1-1 draw. Wales know all about this Georgian team as they slumped to a 1-1 draw at home last October.
The last thing Coleman and his troops wanted was an injury concern over one of their super stars and unfortunately for a Wales perspective, they’ve got one.
Injury plagued Gareth Bale is once again in a race against time to be fit for these two upcoming fixtures. After limping off for Real Madrid in the Champions League during the week, the winger is once again struggling with a muscular problem.
If Wales were to drop points against the European minnows, Martin O’Neill’s men would once again be in the driving seat for a play-off position. That would then increase the pressure on the meeting between the Welsh and Irish at the Cardiff City Stadium on the 9th October.
More than likely, Ireland will come into that game off the back of a home win against Moldova so the Irish tails will be up for this titanic clash. As well as the pressure already brought into the game due to its importance, another factor worth noting is what happened when last these two sides met in March.
After a tense and nervy first half, the game erupted into life after a horrendous challenge from the Welsh full-back, Neil Taylor, on Seamus Coleman.
The challenge resulted in the Irish captain receiving a double leg break and Taylor been shown a straight red card. Coleman has been side-lined since for both club and country and nothing would please the Irish fans more than the “Boys in Green” taking away the Welshmen’s World Cup dreams.
Expect a feisty and evenly contested match but the nature of the game itself depends heavily on the result from Tbilisi.