2018 FIFA World Cup: European Play-off Predictions
For the fifth and final time this calendar year, we are heading into an international break and it is arguably the most important stoppage of all.
Twenty three teams have already booked their tickets to Russia for next year's World Cup and the battle for the remaining nine spots is to play out over the next ten days in the all-important play-off rounds.
There are some enticing fixtures lined-up in the European play-offs, as the eight teams in contention prepare to learn their fate. Here's how I expect the games to unfold...
#4 Denmark vs Republic of Ireland
Despite boasting some legendary names in their history, Republic of Ireland's tryst with the World Cup has always ended in painful heartbreak. With only three appearances at the finals to show for their efforts, The Green Army are on the cusp of another historic qualification.
The road to the playoffs has been anything but straightforward for Martin O'Neill's side though, with the nation having registered just five victories out of ten. The next challenge presents itself in the form of an exciting and dynamic Denmark side aspiring to make history themselves.
The Danish side have shown a lot of promise in the qualifiers, but still fell short of direct qualification. Their history at World Cup tournaments isn't any better than their opposition, but there's no doubting they withhold the potential to overturn O'Neill's boys.
Historically speaking, Ireland hold the upper hand over Denmark, winning five of the thirteen clashes to-date, losing only three. That said, they'll need more than just history on their side if they are to prevail against an in-form Denmark team, which has proven potent up-front.
With the first leg being held in Copenhagen, it is imperative for O'Neill's side to snatch an away goal, as Denmark have proved to be indomitable at home.
Verdict - A difficult match-up that's tough to predict, but expect Denmark's clinical gameplay to outmaneuver a relatively restrained Ireland side.
Predicted score: Denmark 2-2 Republic of Ireland (on aggregate). Danes to progress on away goals.
Key players: Denmark: Christian Eriksen, Thomas Delaney; Ireland - James McClean, Daryl Murphy