Republic of Ireland v Moldova preview: Martin O'Neill's men aiming to keep World Cup dream alive
Last Updated: 06/10/17 7:43pm
The Republic of Ireland will be aiming to keep World Cup dream alive with victory against Molodva on Friday evening with second spot still in their sights.
Martin O'Neill's side trail Wales - who currently occupy second place - by one point with it all to play for over the next two games.
However, only eight of the nine runners-up will be entered into the play-off round, with Wales currently missing out, but Republic of Ireland manager O'Neill is only focused on the clash with Moldova, live on Sky Sports, to give them the best chance of qualifying.
"We have to win the game on Friday and it's going to be a tough match. We have shown in the past great resilience and great courage and can fight back from some adversity, that is what we are strong at," he said in a pre-match conference.
"That's what we need to show on Friday. If we win the game, that will give us enough confidence to go over to Cardiff.
"I think there is much to look forward to. We qualified for a competition and I think season tickets have gone from 4,000 to 16,000 so I think there is some evidence we are doing okay.
"We're still in the mix and one out of one [qualifying] at this minute is not too bad."
After a long spell on the sidelines, James McCarthy has returned to training although match fitness could be an issue.
Keiren Westwood (rib) and Jonathan Walters (knee) will not feature this time around while Robbie Brady and James McClean are both suspended.
New arrivals Sean Maguire, Scott Hogan and Aiden O'Brien will also be hoping to earn their first caps for their country over the coming days.
The Boys in Green are winless in their last four World Cup Qualifiers (D3 L1), scoring just two goals in the process.
In fact, they last went on a longer winless run in World Cup qualification back in October 2000 (five games).
Republic of Ireland's defeat in their last qualifier at home to Serbia was their first defeat in their last nine World Cup qualifiers (W4 D4) and was their first competitive home defeat under Martin O'Neill (W5 D4).
James McClean is Ireland's top goal scorer in 2018 World Cup qualifying (3), but has failed to net in any of his previous four qualifiers.
Moldova are winless in their last 18 Euro and World Cup Qualifiers (D4 L14). Their previous win was a 5-2 victory over Montenegro away from home back in October 2013.
Charlie Nicholas predicts
This should be a comfortable win for Ireland, even if they are not a side that scores a lot of goals.
Shane Long's struggles are a particular concern but I can see a few different players chipping in and helping them out on Friday.
James McClean and Robbie Brady are both suspended and that's an issue but the Republic should have enough quality to secure a comfortable victory.