Austria v Republic of Ireland: Talking points

O'Neill's injury list has assumed significant proportions in the run-up to the game.

Austria v Republic of Ireland: Talking points

Martin O'Neill's men head into Saturday's Group D showdown with Austria knowing they can make a major statement in their bid to reach the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

Here, we take a look at some of the talking points surrounding the game at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna.

CASUALTY CHAOS

O'Neill's injury list has assumed significant proportions in the run-up to the game. Already without defender Stephen Ward, midfielder Stephen Quinn and strikers Shane Long and Daryl Murphy, he has been forced to also scrub out the names of James McCarthy and Eunan O'Kane and headed for Austria with lingering doubts over fellow midfielder James McClean and experienced defender John O'Shea. The manager has always comforted himself with the knowledge he has men in reserve, but the stores are looking increasingly bare.

MISSING McCARTHY

McCarthy has found himself in the headlines in recent weeks, but not for anything he has done on the pitch - indeed, for nothing he has done at all. The Everton midfielder has been the focal point of a row between O'Neill and club boss Ronald Koeman over his fitness following first groin surgery and then a hamstring problem. McCarthy, who started against both Georgia and Moldova last month, has been withdrawn from the squad, although his absence may at least solve one issue for O'Neill with he and Glenn Whelan both keen to occupy similar areas of the pitch - something which has not worked at times.

WHERE ARE THE GOALS COMING FROM?

It is a question which has been asked every time the Ireland squad have assembled in the last 12 months or so, particularly since Robbie Keane's retirement from international football after scoring 68 goals in 146 appearances for his country. However, it is all the more pertinent this time around with Long and Murphy sitting in treatment rooms in England and McClean, who scored twice in Moldova, nursing a back problem. Robbie Brady's set-pieces have become ever more important to Ireland, but O'Neill will have to find a cutting edge with Jonathan Walters, Kevin Doyle, David McGoldrick and Adam Rooney his remaining striking options.

REVENGE MISSION

Austria may be ranked just three places above the 33rd-placed Ireland by FIFA, but they have been something of a thorn in the flesh over the years. In 14 meetings between the sides, Ireland have triumphed in just two, the last of them in October 1963. The Austrians won 3-1 home and away during qualification for Euro '96, and late David Alaba goals secured a 2-2 draw in Dublin and a 1-0 victory in Vienna to deny the Republic a place at the 2014 World Cup finals and prompt Giovanni Trapattoni's exit as manager the day after the second encounter.

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