Irish are familiar foes for Scotland

By Liam McLeodBBC Scotland
Republic of Ireland are co-leaders in Group D with seven points from three games
Republic of Ireland are co-leaders in Group D with seven points from three games
Scotland v Republic of Ireland
Venue: Celtic Park Date: 14 November Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Scotland & online. Live text on BBC Sport website.

It was a peculiar night in Warsaw. Scotland had claimed a point at the home of one of their chief rivals for European Championship qualification who had inflicted defeat on the world champions just days before.

But something did not feel right. The point itself could prove crucial in the long-run, even if it could have been so much better had Gordon Strachan's men held onto a 2-1 lead.

When the full-time whistle had gone in the Polish capital news filtered through from Gelsenkirchen that the Republic of Ireland had snuck a last-gasp draw against the Germans.

And it wasn't the first time the Irish had struck late in the infancy of this intriguing group.

John O'Shea's incredible injury-time salvage job against the World Cup winners was preceded a month earlier by a similarly precious goal from Aiden McGeady which secured all three points in Georgia.

Martin O'Neill's Celtic teams had a knack of plundering points in the dying embers of matches.

And the man handed the task of taking the Irish to back-to-back European finals appears to be repeating the trick in his first international job.

Despite securing qualification for the 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine, O'Neill's predecessor Giovanni Trappatoni was accused of not blooding enough young talent into an experienced squad and of not allowing the players to express themselves.

However, the current incumbent has retained experienced heads such as O'Shea and record scorer Robbie Keane.

Goalkeeper Shay Given, who has won 126 caps, has even returned at the age of 38 having previously announced his international retirement.

There is an Everton core to O'Neill's crop with Glasgow-born McGeady and James McCarthy joined by impressive full-back Seamus Coleman and midfielder Darron Gibson.

All of whom ply their trade alongside Scotland's Steven Naismith at the Merseyside club.

John O'Shea celebrated his 100th cap with a stoppage-time equaliser in Germany
John O'Shea celebrated his 100th cap with a stoppage-time equaliser in Germany

Millwall goalkeeper David Forde has emerged as the current number one and it has been a late blossoming for the 34-year-old who became the oldest player in Irish history to be capped competitively for the first time when he ran out against Sweden in 2013.

O'Neill's biggest problem area and one the Scots will hope to exploit at a packed Celtic Park is at the back.

Stoke City's Marc Wilson will miss the trip to Glasgow through injury, so English-born former Scotland Under-21 international Alex Pearce comes into contention to deputise alongside centre-half O'Shea.

Pearce made his decision to represent Ireland in 2011 but the Reading defender has won just five caps since and has only started alongside O'Shea once.

Aston Villa's versatile Ciaran Clark is another option but has rarely featured for his club this season.

The Irish left-back of choice for the last few years has been Burnley's Stephen Ward. Signed by Wolves as a striker, the 29-year-old was quickly moved into defence but his attacking instinct remains.

For that reason, Strachan may pinpoint Ward's inclination to go forward as a potential weakness.

Coleman is a certain starter at right-back and is another who enjoys travelling the flank, albeit with better defensive skills than Ward.

Should McCarthy recover from a hamstring problem, he is likely to be joined by Hull City's Stephen Quinn, with Gibson perhaps favourite to make up the trio, although Glenn Whelan could also return from injury.

Ahead of them will be McGeady and Stoke forward Jon Walters, who scored one of the goals in their precious Euro 2012 play-off victory over Estonia.

Now 28 and preparing for an emotional return to his old home, McGeady's last game for the Scottish champions there was an Old Firm derby victory over Rangers in May 2010, although he did visit Celtic Park with Spartak Moscow.

Irish winger Aiden McGeady
Aiden McGeady spent nearly 10 years with Scottish champions Celtic

He has gone on to become a more complete player following a three-and-a-half-year spell at Spartak.

McGeady, who scored both goals in Georgia, was born a few miles from Friday's venue and may represent the biggest threat to the Scots, something Strachan knows only too well having managed him to success at Celtic.

And that leaves us with another man the Scotland boss is extremely familiar with, having once spent £6m on a 17-year-old Keane while manager of Coventry City.

Keane's hat-trick against Gibraltar in Dublin in October took his tally to an incredible 65 - only three behind the legendary Pele and Gerd Muller's international goal count.

At the age of 34, there are question marks about the LA Galaxy star operating as a lone frontman.

But given O'Neill has started the former Celtic loanee in all of their qualifiers so far, he looks sure to lean on him again.

While the Irish results have impressed, largely, the performances have not matched. In some ways, the opposite has applied to Strachan's team in this campaign so far.

Having scored Scotland's second goal in Poland, Naismith conceded after the draw that O'Neill's team had earned a good point against the Germans but he was quick to point out that a home win at Celtic Park would smudge the shine from that result.

And the victory Naismith speaks of appears crucial to Scotland's qualification hopes.