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Bale can lead Wales to crucial win
The standout fixture of Friday's World Cup qualifiers is the crucial Group D encounter between Republic of Ireland and Wales in Dublin.

Martin O'Neill's men currently top the group having progressed through their opening four qualifying matches without defeat – with three wins and one draw so far.

Three of those games have been away but Friday's match will be their biggest test to date on home soil, where recent form has been a bit more scratchy.

The Republic have won their last two home fixtures – against Oman and Georgia – but had failed to win any of the previous three on home soil, which includes a 2-1 defeat to Belarus.

Despite their strong start to the group, there will be a bit of pressure for the hosts to perform in front of their own fans against a team that stole the limelight at last summer’s European Championships.

Goals have often been a problem at home and with Daryl Murphy absent and Shane Long lacking in game time in recent weeks, that might be a concern for those wanting to back a home win at n/a.

Wales have suffered a post-tournament dip since reaching the last four in France and currently sit third in the group, four points behind Friday's opponents.

Even though there is a gap, Chris Coleman’s men are also unbeaten in their four games, with one win and three draws in what looks like a tight Group D. The one massive plus for the visitors is the return of Gareth Bale, who is back after a lengthy absence with an ankle injury.

It's true that one man doesn't make a team, but Bale’s impact cannot be overstated and the Real Madrid star is capable of winning this game for the visitors at n/a with a moment of magic. Another key returnee is Aaron Ramsey, who has missed a large chunk of the domestic season but has been back in the Arsenal squad in the last month.

Head-to-head stats favour the Republic, with Wales only winning one of their previous nine meetings since 1990. But only two of those games have been in the last 10 years and the Welsh are much different team now than a decade ago.

There is certainly belief in the Wales ranks and they will know that a win at the Aviva Stadium will put them right back into the shake up for top spot and automatic qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

Recommended Bet: Wales win at n/a
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