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Rupert Wyman 6th Feb 2011 - 21:59

Carling Nations Cup Preview

Carling Nations Cup preview

Republic of Ireland v Wales, Tuesday 19:45

Northern Ireland v Scotland, Wednesday 19:45

This week sees the inaugural Carling Nations Cup begin in Dublin. This is an international event involving all the home international teams, except for England, taking part in a round robin league format.

Every game will be played in the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Each team will meet once and whoever tops the table after their three games will be crowned the Carling Nations Cup champions 2011.

The tournament was first suggested by Lawrie Sanchez when he was in charge of Northern Ireland and became frustrated by the lack of competitive friendly action his team were involved in between qualifying games. Hopefully, the home nation element should provide a derby atmosphere and spark more interest than your average international friendly.

Each game will be broadcast on Sky Sports  and there will be a double header of fixtures at the end of May to decide the winning country.

Understandably Republic of Ireland are the favourites with home advantage and it will be something of a shock if they do not get enough points to top the group. They are 11/10 to be the first ever Carling Nations Cup winners.

However, the word from the Scottish camp is that they are taking the tournament very seriously, treating it more as a competitive tournament than a friendly kick about and if they can get off to a winning start against Northern Ireland this week the 5/2 about them will look generous.

Wales are rated at 4/1. Gary Speed struggles to field his best players at any one time and that will always work against him, they have a tough opener against the hosts and I think it will come too soon into Speed's reign for them to have any success. The dark horses are Northern Ireland at 5/1. They are always capable of a shock result but don't travel particularly well.

Republic of Ireland are 8/11 to get off to a winning on start on Tuesday against Wales.  Stephen Hunt, Kevin Foley and Paul McShane all miss out through injury.

Wales are 19/5 to get a moral boosting win ahead of their qualifying game against England next month., the draw is 13/5.

New Wales boss Gary Speed has been hit by a host of injuries including Craig Morgan who pulled out on Saturday. Morgan joins Danny Gabbidon, Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale on the sidelines making it look a tough test for the Welsh.  Celtic's Joe Ledley is likely to play for Wales and he is 16/1 to score first.

The 2nd game takes place on Wednesday as Northern Ireland play Scotland. Northern Ireland fans are expected to number around 10,000 and along with the visitors from Scotland it should be a great occasion.

Northern Ireland are a tough opponent when they play in Belfast but will lose that advantage in this game played in the neutral venue making it a tough game to call. They are priced at 9/4.

Scotland put in an impressive performance in their last qualifying fixture back in October losing out to Spain 3-2 after putting up a great fight and giving the world champions a scare. That would make the 6/5 they can get a win against Norther Ireland look generous but like most nations when it comes to international friendlies they have been hit with injuries before the match. S

Some of Craig Levein's bigger name players are out as Lee McCulloch, Darren Fletcher, Graham Dorrans and Gary Caldwell have all pulled out. Two Wigan players, James McCarthur and Stephen Caldwell, have been called into the squad.

The draw in the game is 23/10 and that looks like the value selection.

I think the Scots may be the best bet to win the tournament at 5/2 and I would go for a Republic of Ireland/Scotland double in this weeks games at odds of just over 3/1.

It's sure to be an interesting week and if all goes well them maybe a return to the full home internations with England included may be in the pipeline in future years.

Full Fixture List:

February 8 - Republic of Ireland v Wales

February 9 - Northern Ireland v Scotland

May 23 - Republic of Ireland v Northern Ireland

May 24 - Wales v Scotland

May 26 - Wales v Northern Ireland

May 27 - Republic of Ireland v Scotland

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