Here are the main talking points ahead of Saturday’s clash with Denmark

Here are the main talking points ahead of Saturday’s clash with Denmark

Denmark stand between the Republic of Ireland and their dreams of a trip to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

Here, we take a look at some of the main talking points surrounding the play-off first leg showdown in Copenhagen on Saturday evening.

Lucky O’Neill?

There is a school of thought which suggests that Martin O’Neill is a lucky manager - one he has refuted in no uncertain in recent weeks, describing it as "complete and utter b*******" - who always gets a result when he needs one. He argues, with some justification, that meticulous attention to detail and hard graft, rather than good fortune, have secured the pivotal wins over Germany, Italy and Wales during his tenure to date, but having been presented with a favourable draw and the home leg second this time around, can he make the most of it?

Throwing Christian to the lions

Denmark are far from a one-man team, but if Ireland are to prosper, they will need to put the shackles on Christian Eriksen. He is the man who makes both Tottenham and his national team tick and it will take every ounce of Irish industry and commitment to limit his involvement if they are to emerge victorious over the two games.

Home sickness

O’Neill’s men have fared rather better on the road than they have at the Aviva Stadium during the current campaign, collecting 11 of their 19 points on their travels, which saw them win in Moldova, Austria and Wales. By contrast, they suffered their only defeat - by Serbia - in Dublin and beat just Georgia and Moldova, suggesting life may prove difficult if they do not return from Copenhagen with a positive result.

Goals, goals, goals

Denmark have scored more freely than Ireland during the campaign with 20 goals in their 10 games, four of them without reply against eventual group winners Poland, but have also conceded more often with eight. The Republic managed only 12 goals and scored more than once in a game on just three occasions, but leaked a meagre six with two of those coming in their opening draw with the Serbs in Belgrade.

Pay-off for pain in Paris?

Few in Ireland will need reminding of Thierry Henry’s infamous handball during the 2009 play-off against France which ultimately denied Giovanni Trapattoni’s side the chance of a trip to South Africa. The Football Association of Ireland may have received a five million Euros FIFA loan - which was later written off - to help offset the cost of developing the Aviva in return from dropping a legal challenge, but victory over the Danes might just exorcise that ghost once and for all.

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