Denmark vs Republic of Ireland preview, betting tips and prediction: O'Neill's side to lay good foundations for progression in first leg
Denmark to win 2-1
Christian Eriksen to score any time
With as few as three games remaining in the World Cup 2018 qualification campaign, the Republic of Ireland could have been forgiving for believing their hopes of reaching the finals in Russia next summer were slipping away. Having trailed Serbia but crucially led Wales in the race for second and a playoff spot for much of the process, they appeared to let it slip before finally clinching it with a shock last day away win in Cardiff.
Denmark have one of Europe’s best midfielders in their side. Spurs man Christian Eriksen continues to go from strength to strength in the Premier League and we think he has a telling contribution to make in this one, too. But Ireland will still be in the tie come the return leg in Dublin.
Denmark finished comfortably above Montenegro in their group but an impressive Poland side, led by Robert Lewandowsi, was too strong for them and topped it by five points. The 1992 European champions won six of their ten games, losing just two. They won 20 points, one more than Ireland.
Serbia had looked too far gone at the top of their group in qualifying, but amazingly, Ireland had the chance to win the whole thing and go straight to Russia. It wasn’t to be, but they still come into this tie on a high after two crucial wins in the group. The dream is definitely not over for Ireland.
No fewer than seven players are unavailable to Martin O’Neill for this one, as injury troubles continue to ravage his squad. The most high profile absentee is Everton’s James McCarthy. Richard Keogh and Sean Maguire also miss out.
Although David Meyler has been included in the squad and will be available in the second leg, the Hull midfielder will be banned for the first game and that could prove a big blow.
Denmark captain Simon Kjaer is a doubt with a hamstring problem, while Nicholai Jorgensen is also not likely to play. But Eriksen is not the only talent the Danes can call upon. Kasper Schmeichel has been a revelation for Leicester City for a number of years now and former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner, who has always been seen as a bit of a joke by Premier League fans, always seems to save his best form for the international stage. Both are likely to play in this game.