Four things to look out for during the International Qualifiers

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We’re heading into the business end of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers this week with a double round of fixtures to look forward to.

As ever, the Home Nations and the Republic of Ireland are all involved with some huge games on the horizon. Can England stretch their lead at the top of Group F? And can Wales keep pace with the Irish in Group D?

 

Here are four things to keep an eye on over the next week or so.

Northern Ireland to consolidate second place

Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland side have been on a remarkable run the last few years and their form shows no sign of stopping.

A win against San Marino on Friday could see them stretch their lead over the third-placed Czech Republic to a huge seven points if the Czechs lose at home to Germany.

Republic on a mission in Georgia

The Republic of Ireland could also take a giant stride to qualification with a win in Georgia on Saturday evening.

Martin O’Neill’s squad are level on points with Serbia at the top of the table. A win in Tbilisi, coupled with any sort of decent Moldovan result against Serbia, and the Boys in Green would hit the Group D summit.

Business as usual for England

Gareth Southgate takes his charges to Malta looking for a win that would see the Three Lions maintain, or even stretch, their lead at the top of Group F.

Harry Kane will look to continue his role as chief successor to the recently retired Wayne Rooney. Meanwhile, this could also be a great opportunity for Southgate to experiment with fringe players against Malta, and possibly Slovakia too.

Meanwhile, this could also be a great opportunity for Southgate to experiment with fringe players against Malta, and possibly Slovakia too.

Coleman desperately needs a win

Wales face a tough test against Austria in Cardiff on Saturday evening. Chris Coleman’s side really need all three points if they are to stay in touch with the Republic and Serbia.

The previous game between the pair finished 2-2 in Vienna but the Welsh will need to go one better this time and will be banking on Gareth Bale to be at his sparkling best.

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Cian Carroll

Starting life as a football columnist for his local paper in Dundalk, Cian has written for a number of media outlets with pieces published in The Birmingham Mail and Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo. A lover of football, GAA, boxing, rugby and MMA, he’s a big Aston Villa and Dundalk fan. He can be regularly spotted on various mountain tops.