Liverpool youngster Ben Woodburn, 17, was a surprise inclusion in Coleman’s squad and could be in line for his first cap. Fellow Liverpool youngster Harry Wilson has been drafted in to replace in-form Ipswich forward Tom Lawrence. On-loan Leicester City starlet, Lawrence, has been in scintillating form for the Tractor Boys and has netted nine goals since the turn of the year - but the 23 year old will miss out with an ankle injury. Newcastle left back Paul Dummett also misses out with a hamstring injury.
Ireland themselves have a minor injury crisis, as they are without nine players ahead of the clash – including Irish player of the year Robbie Brady, who is suspended, whilst there remains doubts over captain Seamus Coleman.
"The irony of all of this is that way back when Gareth Bale got injured in November, everybody was talking about Wales possibly having one of their major players out of the team, and it turns out that we are the ones who are doing the suffering," O’Neill said.
Ireland who, like Wales and Serbia, are also unbeaten have picked up three wins so far and will be looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since the 2002. Ireland endured an eventful finals in ‘02 that saw them knocked out on penalties by Spain in the round of 16 and saw captain Roy Keane sent home, after a bust up with then manager Mick McCarthy. Keane is now assistant manager to O’Neill and has advised his players on how to stop Welsh talisman Gareth Bale.
“The basic advice to any player if you’re up against a word class player: somebody get to him, get to him as quick as you can, don’t let him get his head up like he does at Real Madrid. Don’t give him space in behind because the boy can run. Tackle him. Hit him…fairly. Tackling is part of the bloody game.”
Elsewhere in the group Georgia take on Serbia and Moldova travel to Austria.