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Finland and Wales have dominated this group and it leaves Ireland and Bulgaria with a combined three points after five games each, though the hosts here have fared marginally better and only need a point to stave off relegation to League C.
Neither side arrive with any sort of form behind them, as both Stephen Kenney and Georgi Dermendzhiev have a whole series of absentees to contend with.
John Egan only lasted just 15 minutes against England at the start of this international break and joins Enda Stevens, Harry Arter and captain Seamus Coleman on the sidelines, while Alan Browne and Callum Robinson remain in isolation.
Moreover, Jeff Hendrick is now suspended following his late sending off against Wales, though Ireland do have defensive and midfield options to call upon to replace those players and it’s the lack of a goalscorer that remains the thorn in their side.
Bulgaria have been hit by a combination of injury and coronavirus. Goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov, defenders Anton Nedyalkov and Georgi Terziev, midfielders Martin Raynov, Georgi Konstadinov and Todor Nedelev, as well as forward Kiril Despodov are all unavailable here.
All but one of those players possess a minimum of 15 caps and it strips the visitors of some vital experience, with only seven of the remaining squad boasting as many international appearances as that.
Ireland To Win And Under 2.5 Goals
Bulgaria are just W2-D6-L13 from their past 21 fixtures now as both victories came on home turf, with even one of those coming over minnows Gibraltar.
Excluding that result, they’ve suffered 12 defeats from their last 15 outings, including each of the past five, so it’s easy to see why Ireland are fancied to end 2020 with a victory on the board.
Indeed, Bulgaria are a pathetic W1-D4-L10 on their travels since October 2016, which includes a friendly defeat in Dublin 14 months ago, while even their four stalemates over this period were picked up over weak outfits Luxembourg, Cyprus, Kosovo and Montenegro.
11 of Ireland’s last 22 matches have ended in draws and they’re without a victory in eight appearances now.
Most concerning has been the lack of output, with Ireland failing to score in each of their last six matches as all but one of these games saw just one goal or fewer in total. However, it’s worth noting that seven of Ireland’s past nine victories have come in Dublin, where they’re W4-D4-L1 over the past 24 months.
After a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in Sofia, this is likely to be another dour encounter, though with home advantage Ireland should really be looking to nick the points against limited opponents.
Bulgaria have just the solitary clean sheet from 17 road trips, so Ireland should find a breakthrough. However, the hosts have seen fewer than three goals in a whopping 27 of 33 matches now, as 16 saw just one goal or less, so we’d combine the two markets.
Ireland & Under 2.5 Goals At 15/8
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND V BULGARIA ODDS AVAILABLE HERE
ODDS ARE CORRECT AS OF 17/11/2020 HOWEVER ARE SUBJECT TO FLUCTUATIONS
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