The Republic of Ireland did very well in a tough group and ran Russia very close at the top. With 21 points they may have expected to qualify and will be optimistic playing a side ranked 34 places beneath them by FIFA.
Ireland can be backed at odds of 7/5 (Boylesports – £40 free bets) to claim a huge away win and give themselves a great chance of qualifying for Poland and Ukraine.
The Irish have injury doubts over forwards Robbie Keane and Shane Long, although both have been named in the 26 man squad. As well as that, recent addition to Ireland’s squad Leon Best sustained a groin injury against Everton last Saturday and will not feature in this match. Kevin Doyle has also been named in Giovanni Trapattoni’s group, despite being unavailable for the first leg through suspension.
The coach has warned against over-confidence saying, “There is no room for complacency as we prepare for our two games next month. We will remember that Estonia have as much right to be in the play-offs as ourselves.” Given that Ireland will be desperately short up front unless either Keane, Long or Best can make miraculous recoveries, it is likely the canny Italian will settle for a draw.
Estonia did very well to qualify for the play-offs ahead of Serbia and Slovenia and also ran Italy very close, losing 2-1 at home back in September after leading until the 60th minute. Estonia won their last three qualifying games to secure their spot in the play-offs so will enter the game with confidence and can be backed for the win at 5/2 (bet365 – £200 free betting).
With Italy having played Estonia in qualifying, Trapattoni will no doubt seek the advice of his Italian contemporaries and we expect his experience to come to the fore. With Ireland being short up front for this one, under 1.5 goals could be a decent bet at odds of 7/4 (Stan James) in what we are sure will be a tight game.