A win in Geneva on Tuesday would put Ireland through to Euro 2020 but defeat would undo good work from earlier in the campaign writes Daniel McDonnell.
Switzerland v Republic of Ireland Tuesday October 15, 19:45 Live On Sky Sports Football
This match means everything
Ireland are 90 minutes away from Euro 2020 qualification. They could also be 90 minutes away from a result that makes the long-time group leaders firm outsiders to book an automatic place in next summer's finals.
Saturday's scoreless struggle in Tbilisi has increased the pressure on Mick McCarthy's side heading into Tuesday's showdown with top seeds Switzerland in Geneva.
Granted, the Swiss are under even more pressure after their loss to Copenhagen on Saturday. And the simplest permutation of all is that three points for the visitors would seal their spot in the tournament at the expense of their hosts.
But the pragmatic view is that the Swiss defeat in Copenhagen was actually bad news for Mick McCarthy's team.
Before that round of fixtures, there was a plausible scenario where two draws from the final two games would be enough for the Boys in Green. Now they have to produce a victory away to the Swiss or at home to the Danes.
Switzerland have been the strongest team in terms of performances across the group, and they are not the side to be entering a winner takes all battle with.
Vladimir Petkovic's team still know that wins from their matches with Ireland, Georgia and Gibraltar will put them through. However, a draw could snooker them as it would put Denmark into the finals - presuming they beat Gibraltar in their penultimate match - and leave the Swiss vulnerable to elimination if Age Hareide's side take the foot off the pedal in Dublin in November.
Switzerland must wonder why they are in this position. They led 3-0 against Denmark in March and shipped three in the last six minutes. They dominated Ireland in Dublin last month and conceded a late equaliser. On Saturday, they were thwarted consistently by man of the match Kasper Schmeichel and came away with nothing. Late goals are killing them and that offers some encouragement for Ireland if they can hang in there. But Ireland looked bereft of ideas in Tbilisi until late sub Aaron Connolly was introduced and it would take a leap of faith to predict a dramatic turnaround inside 72 hours. David McGoldrick, the goalscorer in the 1-1 draw in Dublin, has been ruled out.
Switzerland must be hurting, but they were far better than Ireland in that Aviva Stadium game with their movement and athleticism exposing flaws in McCarthy's side. Therefore, the trading odds of 1.56 on a Swiss win on home soil are a fair reflection of their chances, if not exactly screaming value.
A game of two halves
McCarthy is in a slightly tricky position in terms of how to approach this fixture. His team were criticised for taking a conservative approach in Georgia, and there's a view that he should have startedConnolly, the Brighton teenager who caused havoc upon his 79th minute introduction and missed two late chances. The manager was adamant that a point from that game was a job well done.
While a win will put Ireland through to the finals, he has gone on record to state that a draw would be a 'fabulous' outcome. There is a chance that Connolly will be pitched in from the start, but it's still conceivable that the Irish approach will be to try and frustrate the Swiss and then leave them vulnerable a situation where the game opens up later on and presents opportunities for a smash and grab.
Ireland have conceded just two goals in the campaign to date, and there is reason to believe they are capable of executing the first part of that plan. But Switzerland got ahead after the interval in Dublin after pressure eventually paid off and they really should have driven on from that point. It's 4.40 for Draw/Switzerland in the Half Time/Full Time Market and that is an appealing choice.
Goal patterns could change
Backing Unders has been a fruitful enough strategy throughout Ireland's qualifying campaign. The Under 1.5 in Georgia looked safe from the early minutes. And it's natural that traders would look at this fixture and deduce that the 1.5 is a key market.
However, a speculative play on Over 2.5 Goals at 2.42 is recommended here. Why? Switzerland have displayed defensively vulnerabilities across the competition and Ireland are capable of hurting them from dead ball situations and by getting crosses into the area.
Switzerland should be good enough to get ahead in this match and, if Ireland end up chasing a deficit, they will have to take risks that leave them vulnerable to more damage on the break. Breel Embolo's pace was a constant menace in Dublin and there's a niggling feeling this match could open up in the final quarter.
Maybe it's worth playing on goals at half-time if Ireland do succeed in keeping it tight to that juncture, but something has got to give here. A bore draw would likely satisfy McCarthy, but it's hard to see it being achieved.