Mick McCarthy’s boys in green welcome Gibraltar to the Aviva Stadium on Monday night as the two prepare to do battle in their fourth and third respective outing of this Euro 2020 qualifying campaign. The hosts have been in excellent form during the three matches they’ve played so far, coming out with no defeats and seven points which has put them right in contention for an automatic qualification spot for next summer’s tournament. Gibraltar have suffered however, losing both of their first two fixtures. With plenty to play for and winning imperative to the pair of these sides, this promises to be an enthralling encounter.
These are two sides who know one another quite well, having faced off on three occasions since 2014. Gibraltar will be disappointed with their performances against the Irish for the most part, shipping twelve goals in total over the duration of those meetings, the last of which in March of this year and ending 0-1 in favour of the visiting team. That’s a display that Gibraltar will likely look back on in preparation for this one, as they actually performed to a solid standard and held their opponents to just a solitary goal, which didn’t arrive until the second half. Ireland will certainly be expected to run riot at home against a side ranked 195 on the FIFA World Rankings, but this is football and anything is possible.
Ireland’s point away from home versus Denmark could turn out to be crucial come the end of these qualifiers, particularly when taking their performances against Georgia and Gibraltar into account. In the two preceding fixtures, Ireland were dreadful and could only net twice over 180 minutes. In spite of that, all that mattered was getting the three precious points and having done so in those ties, they arrived in Copenhagen looking to cause an upset of sorts. The game was going more or less how they would have liked until Southampton midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg popped up with a magnificent header in the 76th minute. It was a goal that appeared to break Irish hearts until Shane Duffy nodded home a tremendous cross from Alan Judge to rescue a much deserved point.
Gibraltar have experiences a contrasting run of results when compared to the Irish team, suffering defeats in all of their last five games and failing to get on the scoresheet in their last four. Whilst this should be cause for concern for fans, they will have been buoyed by the reverse fixture against Ireland where they were arguably unfortunate to come away with nothing. Since then, Estonia have beaten them by one goal to nil and Georgia earned their first victory of this campaign in a 3-0 result at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena on Friday night. Gibraltar are in real danger of finishing in last place on the standings if they do not begin to pick up some points sooner rather than later, so they will be absolutely determined to prove themselves worthy of a higher finish in this one.
Ireland have lined up with a different formation in each of their three qualifiers up to now, so it will be difficult to predict what Mick McCarthy will go for here. It is unlikely that he will repeat the 4-3-1-2 formation that his side used in Gibraltar, and the 4-3-3 on home soil when hosting Georgia didn’t work wonders either. For this reason, we expect that he will utilize the strength of David McGoldrick as a lone striker, just as he did against Denmark, and begin with a 4-1-4-1 formation. Unfortunately, Alan Judge will most likely miss out due to a broken wrist he picked up in the stalemate in Denmark at the weekend.
Gibraltar have also been chopping and changing their line ups in recent months, switching between 4-4-2, 4-4-3 and 5-3-2. Against Georgia, Gibraltar attempted to create a blockade at the back by sticking the majority of their players in front of the ball, however they were majorly wasteful on the ball and managed to get just one shot in the entire game, and the strike didn’t even work the goalkeeper. The last time Gibraltar came away from a match with a win was against Liechtenstein in October, where they decided on 4-3-3 and actually scored twice in the second half through George Cabrera and Joseph Luis Chipolina. Although we expect them to try and crowd out Ireland’s attacker somewhat, it’s hard to see them lining up with anything too defensive due to their frailties up front. On the injury front, manager Julio Ribas looks set to have an entire squad available for selection.
After a promising display against the Danish we expect Ireland to come out all guns blazing in this one, therefore we like the look of Ireland to have a winning margin of 3 with Bet365 at 15/4. Shane Duffy always seems to pop up with a goal for his country in important matches, so taking a punt on the Brighton defender to net anytime at 13/5, again with Bet365, looks a solid bet from our point of view.
Ireland’s defense can be fragile at times, as was displayed in the affair with Denmark in the World Cup play-offs and even last Friday night, with tendencies to switch off costing the team some valuable points over the years. We can see Gibraltar bagging a shock goal on the night, and Bet365 have BTTS at 5/2, we’ll definitely be putting our money on that one, especially when taking Gibraltar’s necessity to pick up points rapidly.
Ireland winning margin of 3 goals at 15/4
Shane Duffy to score at 13/5
BTTS at 5/2