Team news and previews ahead of Saturday’s internationals, featuring Republic of Ireland, Spain, Italy and more.
Georgia vs Republic of Ireland – 2pm, live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event
Team news: The Republic of Ireland have been strengthened by the return to fitness of Shane Duffy.
The Brighton defender has travelled with the squad to Tbilisi after shaking off a calf problem, providing Mick McCarthy with a defensive boost after he lost two of his first-choice back four, Richard Keogh through injury and Enda Stevens through suspension.
Striker David McGoldrick is recovering from a groin strain and will miss the trip to Georgia, though Ireland hope to have him available for Tuesday’s game in Switzerland.
Georgia have no fresh injuries or suspensions to contend with as they look to preserve their qualification hopes with a positive result.
How to watch: Coverage starts on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event from 1.30pm; Kick-off is at 2pm.
What’s the state of play in Group D? Republic of Ireland look in good shape after their comeback draw with Switzerland last month and beating Georgia next time out would leave them in sterling shape, especially with nearest challengers Denmark and Switzerland going head-to-head on the same night.
Should Switzerland fail to win that one, if Ireland take maximum points in Georgia it would give them a chance to qualify on Sunday.
Georgia’s surprise draw with Denmark last time out gave them their fourth point of qualifying, but they could be eliminated this weekend – worse news for Gibraltar, who have lost every game and are already out of contention.
Coming up in Group D: October 12 – Georgia v Republic of Ireland, Denmark v Switzerland; October 15 – Switzerland v Republic of Ireland, Gibraltar v Georgia
Charlie Nicholas’ prediction: “This is another tough match for the Republic of Ireland. Mick McCarthy has managed to get some decent results, but they lack goals – they have only scored over one goal in one of their five qualifiers. That being said, they have only conceded two in that time, which is impressive. Richard Keogh is out, so who will partner Shane Duffy at the back? McCarthy gets 100 per cent from his players all the time, but these are always dangerous fixtures.”
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 2-1 (14/1 with Sky Bet)
Norway vs Spain – 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports Football
Team news: Spain are without defenders Jordi Alba and Nacho, while first-choice left-back Jose Gaya and Arsenal playmaker Dani Ceballos are doubtful with hamstring strains. Real Madrid forward Marco Asensio (knee) remains a long-term absentee.
Those defensive frailties could play into Norway’s hands, with Salzburg hotshot Erling Braut Haaland and Bournemouth striker Josh King expected to be deployed in front of Martin Odegaard, who is enjoying a renaissance on loan at Real Sociedad. But Norway will be without experienced centre-back Tore Reginiussen (shoulder).
How to watch: Coverage starts on Sky Sports Football from 7.40pm; Kick-off is at 7.45pm.
What’s the state of play in Group F? Spain’s perfect record has them as good as through and they can book their place in the finals this weekend.
That aside second place is up in the air, with Sweden, Romania and Norway separated by two points with two games to go. Romania will be very pleased they’re the only side of the three not to play Spain this weekend – and they host Norway next Tuesday in a game that could have big consequences.
Further down Malta and Faroe Islands are both way back, with only three points to show between them – although that will definitely change when they go head-to-head next Tuesday.
Coming up in Group F: October 12 – Faroe Islands v Romania, Norway v Spain, Malta v Sweden; October 15 – Sweden v Spain, Romania v Norway, Faroe Islands v Malta
Charlie Nicholas’ prediction: “Norway are always a tough act, but Spain have talent across the park. Paco Alcacer is having a good season at Borussia Dortmund, but Rodrigo is doing the same, yet they refrain from playing them together up front and opt for a front three instead. It will be another passing masterclass by the Spanish, though, I can’t see past an away win.”
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 0-2 (11/2 with Sky Bet)
Italy vs Greece – 7.45pm, live on Sky Sports Premier League
Team news: Chelsea defender Emerson Palmieri has been ruled out until after the international break with a thigh strain, the same injury which has cast doubt over midfielder Stefano Sensi’s participation.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma (stomach) is doubtful while Lorenzo Pellegrini (broken foot) and Mattia De Sciglio (arm) remain long-term absentees.
Francesco Acerbi, who has fought his way back to play at the highest level after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, is expected to make Saturday’s starting XI alongside Leonardo Bonucci, while Lazio striker Ciro Immobile could be deployed on his home ground.
Greece defender Kostas Manolas faces a late fitness test on a muscle injury he sustained before the international break, but forwards Kostas Fortounis (knee) and Lazaros Christodoulopoulos are out.
How to watch: Coverage starts on Sky Sports Premier League from 7.40pm; Kick-off is at 7.45pm.
What’s the state of play in Group J? There’s still plenty to play for in Group J with Finland, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece all still vying to finish in the qualification places with Italy, who have won all six of their games so far.
Roberto Mancini’s side will qualify with victory over Greece, who need all three points to stay in contention on Saturday.
Finland, who have 12 points from their six games so far, currently sit second in the group and are on course to make their debut at a major finals. However, they face two big games against Bosnia and Herzegovina, who are five points behind Finland, and Armenia, who are third in the group, three points behind the Finns.
Coming up in Group J: October 12 – Bosnia and Herzegovina v Finland, Italy v Greece, Liechtenstein v Armenia; October 13 – Liechtenstein v Italy, Greece v Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland v Armenia
Charlie Nicholas’ prediction: “Italy are on the rise. Greece do not show you anything – you do not hear anything about their performances, so they have a lot of work to do to regain their once decent reputation. The youngsters are blending in with experience at Italy and they could become a force again.”
CHARLIE PREDICTS: 3-0 (5/1 with Sky Bet)
All other matches are live on Sky Sports Football via the Red Button, or the Sky Sports app. All kick-offs are 7.45pm, unless stated;
- Denmark vs Switzerland (5pm)
- Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Finland (5pm)
- Faroe Islands vs Romania
- Liechtenstein vs Armenia
- Malta vs Sweden
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