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Ashley Williams
Ashley Williams

Ian Ogg previews tonight's World Cup qualifiers and says Wales are in for a tough time against Serbia.

Recommended bets: World Cup qualifiers


1pt draw/Republic of Ireland in HT/FT at 9/2 - the game should open up after a cagey first half

2pts Serbia to beat Wales at 3/4 - Serbia are strong at home and can take advantage of Wales' key absentees

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The Republic of Ireland are unbeaten at home in nine straight qualifiers and are in a strong position in Group D, level on points with Serbia who face Wales later in the evening.

They have already beaten Sunday's opponents Austria, who failed to live up to expectations at Euro 2016, with James McClean scoring the only goal of the game in Vienna although it did come against the run of play. 

The Republic warmed up for this contest with a comprehensive 3-1 defeat of Uruguay (bouncing back from a less impressive display against Mexico) and will be confident of justifying favouritism and cementing their position in the group. 

Marcel Koller may yet be able to stop the rot for Austria who are unbeaten in three subsequent internationals with friendly draws against Finland and Slovakia while comfortably accounting for the group's whipping boys, Moldova. In David Alaba they have a player capable of causing Ireland problems but Marko Arnautovic's absence because of suspension is a blow. 

Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane won't want to allow Austria to gain an early foothold in the game and will have drawn up a suitable gameplan that may well err on the cautious side given their lack of options up front due to injuries.

Backing Ireland, who are around 5/4, draw no bet has to be considered an option but 8/13 is a little short for my liking and I'd rather take a chance in the half-time/full-time betting.

O'Neill's men can be expected to keep it tight in the opening 45 minutes but the game could well open up in the second half and the draw/Ireland outcome can be supported at 9/2.

Like the two sides above them in the table, Wales are undefeated in their qualifying campaign but they are four points adrift with just one win, over Moldova, and four draws to their name, including a 1-1 draw against Serbia in Cardiff.

Their goalscorer that night, Gareth Bale, is absent and the loss of the Real Madrid star is obviously a huge blow to Chris Coleman's side who fought out a tempestuous 0-0 draw with Ireland on their last competitive outing.

A similar outcome wouldn't go amiss for the Welsh as they can ill afford to lose any more ground on the group leaders.

Serbia hasn't been a happy hunting ground for Wales who have yet to beat them (in Serbia), including a 6-1 defeat in Coleman’s first away qualifier in charge. 

His side have come a long way since then (2012) but face a tough task in keeping the likes of Dusan Tadic, who has been directly involved in 11 of Serbia’s 12 goals in qualifying, and Aleksandar Mitrovic, who has scored four times in his last three qualifiers, quiet.

Serbia's problems tend to lie at the other end of the pitch and they've conceded more goals than either Ireland or Wales in the five games played so far but they are unbeaten in their last five at home and can outscore the visitors.

Given the hosts defensive woes, backing both teams to score in a home win makes some appeal at around 7/2 but I'll keep this one simple and back the hosts at a shade of odds-on.  

Where to watch on TV: All matches are live on Sky Sports, including via the Red Button.

Posted at 1250 BST on 09/06/17. 

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