It does not get any more daunting than this for the Republic of Ireland as they face Spain tonight knowing that they must get some sort of result to have any chance of staying in the European Championships beyond the group stages.
Spain claimed a point in their opener against Italy, showing good character to force a draw having gone a goal behind. Their 4-6-0 system had the world talking and it will be interesting to see if they display similar tactics tonight.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s team, meanwhile, underperformed massively against Croatia in their first game to lose 3-1, and a repeat of that lacklustre effort against arguably the best nation on the planet could see a mauling of epic proportions.
Who to watch out for
Where do you start with Spain? They ooze class right through the team and have a number of game changers who can unlock the tightest of defences. David Silva is coming off a good season with Manchester City and provided the assist for Cesc Fabregas’ equaliser against Italy. He will again look to roam around the pitch and will cause plenty of headaches in that space between the Irish back four and their midfield.
At the back, Sergio Ramos remains a key figure in the centre with Carles Puyol absent through injury and it will be important for the Real Madrid man to remain disclipined throughout.
The Irish team is far from being littered with stars but has plenty of hard working players, none moreso than Keith Andrews. The midfielder looked most likely to get a goal in the second half against Croatia and made his presence felt in the area on a number of occasions.
There are still doubts in many quarters over the fitness of goalkeeper Shay Given so keep an eye on his mobility early on.
Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Ramos, Piqué, Alba, Alonso, Busquets, Silva, Xavi, Iniesta, Torres
Ireland: Given, O’Shea, St.Ledger, Dunne, Ward, Duff, Andrews, Whelan, McGeady, Cox, Keane
Let’s be honest, it’s 99.9% certain that Spain will come away with a win. Ireland are a number of levels below them standard wise and even the greatest backs to wall performance of all time probably wouldn’t be enough to take anything from the game.
However we live in hope, and the draw is 9/2 with Setantabet if you fancy Ireland to nick a point. I think that’s the best we can probably hope for.
Realistically though, 3-0 Spain.