Wales and Republic of Ireland will look to keep their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup alive when they meet in Cardiff on Monday.

One of the most highly anticipated 2018 World Cup qualifying fixtures is set to be played at Cardiff City Stadium on Monday, as Wales host Republic of Ireland. The winners will either automatically qualify for next summer’s competition or have to go via playoffs, but the loser will have to settle for third place in Group D.

The hosts are currently placed second in Group D, a point adrift of table toppers Serbia. Chris Coleman’s men are unbeaten in their campaign thus far, and have won their last three games, including a hard fought 1-0 win at Georgia on Friday.

Republic of Ireland, on the other hand, are third in the group, a point behind the resurgent hosts. Martin O’Neill’s men, too, come into the match on the back of a morale-boosting win as they enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 win over Moldova.

The reverse fixture, earlier in the campaign, ended in a goalless draw that is remembered for all the bad reasons as Seamus Coleman suffered a horrendous leg breaker in an ill-tempered game. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides on Monday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Wales

The major absentee from Chris Coleman’s side continues to be Gareth Bale, the team’s talisman, who has sustained a short-term injury to his calf. In the absence of the Real Madrid superstar, the bulk of the responsibility will reside on Aaron Ramsey, who will have to shoulder the creative burden.

Meanwhile, Ben Woodburn is likely to have to wait till next month’s international fixtures to make his full international debut, after Tom Lawrence scored the match winning goal for the Dragons on Friday. With Coleman shoring up midfield and pushing Ramsey up ahead, the Liverpool wonderkid could again be a super sub, at best.

Meanwhile, Ashley Williams will have to marshall his troops at the back to keep the dangerous duo of Robbie Brady and James McClean quiet on the night, while Joe Allen will be a key man in midfield. Sam Vokes and Hal Robson-Kanu need to step up their performances to take some of the pressure off the midfielders.

Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Hennessey; Gunter, Ashley Williams, Chester, Davies; King, Ledley, Allen; Ramsey, Vokes, Lawrence

Wales

Republic of Ireland

Like his counterpart, Martin O’Neill is also dealing with just one major injury concern, with Seamus Coleman a long-term absentee due to his leg injury. In the Ireland captain’s absence, Cyrus Christie is likely to continue as his deputy on the right side of defence.

The Republic of Ireland boss is, meanwhile, boosted by the return of Robbie Brady and James McClean, both of whom served their respective one-match bans against Moldova. The return of Brady means that Callum O’Dowda is likely to start on the bench on Monday despite a strong debut against Moldova.

Meanwhile, the key men for the visitors are Jeff Hendrick and skipper David Meyler, who will have the task of neutralising the threat of Aaron Ramsey, while Ciaran Clark and Shane Duffy will aim to keep Sam Vokes quiet. Up front, Daryl Murphy will look to continue his promising goalscoring form.

Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Randolph; Christie, Duffy, Clark, Ward; McClean, Meyler, Hendrick, Brady; Long, Murphy

ROI

Key Stats

  • Republic of Ireland have lost just one of their last ten matches against Wales (W5 D4) and none of the last seven.
  • Wales have, in fact, failed to score in five of their last six games against Ireland, with Jason Koumas the only player to find the back of the net for the Dragons – a brace in November 2007.
  • Wales are aiming to win four consecutive matches for the first time since May 1981, when they won six games in a row.
  • The Dragons are also aiming to win only their second match without Gareth Bale since October 2013.
  • A Wales win will bring them closer to only their second World Cup appearance, and the first since 1958. Republic of Ireland, on the other hand, will be bidding for their fourth finals qualification.

Player To Watch

Daryl Murphy

Man in form. (Photo courtesy - Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)

Man in form. (Photo courtesy – Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images)

The objective is quite clear for Republic of Ireland. They need goals – quite possibly more than just one – to stand a chance of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. With Shane Long struggling to score on a consistent basis, the onus will be on his strike partner to continue his impressive form.

Daryl Murphy is averaging a goal every 55 minutes in World Cup qualifying for Republic of Ireland, and after a brace against Moldova on Friday, he is arguably the in-form player heading into the game.

Should he continue his goalscoring form on Monday, Martin O’Neill’s men will have strong chances of ending Wales’ unbeaten run in the final round, while keeping their hopes of making Russia 2018 alive.

Prediction

Wales 2-1 Republic of Ireland

Just the final round remains for the automatic qualifiers and the playoff teams to be decided, and the one in Cardiff City Stadium is tantalisingly set up to be yet another tense affair between the Celtic rivals.

The absence of Gareth Bale has levelled up the playing field ahead of Monday’s game, and the match is likely to be an end-to-end affair, with Republic of Ireland clearly in need of goals. Martin O’Neill’s side is usually rock solid, but the search of goals is likely to leave them vulnerable at the back.

That is where Wales should take advantage on Monday, and Aaron Ramsey and co. should capitalise on the chances on offer. Therefore, The Hard Tackle predicts a hard-fought 2-1 win for the hosts to seal a Top 2 spot.

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