McCarthy happy with his work

Mick McCarthy insists that he is doing a good job at Ipswich Town although he admits this season has been tough.

The former Republic of Ireland, Wolves and Sunderland manager has earned the wrath of some Town fans following a disappointing campaign but he still thinks he is the right man to bring the good times back to Portman Road.

Ipswich are 17th in the Championship table – five points above the relegation zone with eight games to go – following the defeat at Cardiff City.

They were also knocked out of the FA Cup by National League side Lincoln City in January, but McCarthy, who has been in charge of Ipswich since November 2012, said: "It confirms to me that for four years I have done a really good job here and this year has been tough.

"We have not spent Aston Villa money, we haven't spent Norwich money, we haven't spent vast sums, and we have been competitive every season, up until this one.

"It does not make me feel lucky, it just confirms that I have been good at my job but I am having it tough this year."

Ipswich, 1000/1 to be relegated from the Championship this season, can be backed at 31/20 to beat Birmingham City in their next match on 1st April.

O’Neill: Start from scratch

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has warned his players that past performances will count for nothing when they face Wales in Dublin on Friday evening.

The home side are top of Group D having gathered ten points from four games, leaving them with a four-point cushion over a Welsh side that has achieved just a solitary victory in four outings.

Ireland's previous game saw them record a precious 1-0 victory away in Austria and they will know that three points at the Aviva Stadium would inflict a severe wound on Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales' hopes of being in Russia next summer.

O'Neill has cautioned his players that their previous achievements will count for little against Chris Coleman's team, and he wants to see them prove their credentials all over again.

"Every single game that you play, you have to go and prove yourself. We have some results that went before that won't count for anything at all," said the Ireland boss.

"We have some points on the board, which is great from that viewpoint, but again we're on show [against Wales] and we have to go and prove ourselves again."

Ireland are 9/5 to beat Wales, who are 2/1 to take three points home from Dublin with the draw 2/1.

O'Neill goes into the game without some of his key players – Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Harry Arter, Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy are all missing through injury and Robbie Brady is suspended.

Despite that, he feels there is confidence in the squad that they can continue their good start.

"I think the players are confident. We have 10 points on the board and three of those games have been away from home. Naturally we are going into the game with confidence," he added.

"But there is a distance to go. I did think that teams were capable of taking points from each other and I think that has been proved."

Ireland are 10/1 to beat Wales 2-1 in Dublin.

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Must-win UAE clash looms

Jackson Irvine concedes Australia will need to see off UAE in Sydney on Tuesday to claim a top-two spot in their World Cup qualifying group.

Ange Postecoglou's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Iraq in Tehran on Thursday, keeping them outside the automatic qualifying places for next year's tournament in Russia.

Irvine's previous international appearances had come off the bench, but he was handed a first start as part of a new-look formation.

The Burton Albion player rued the fact that the Socceroos could not go on and beat Iraq after Mathew Leckie had given them a first-half lead.

They've now drawn four matches in a row, and must make the most of the home games that will conclude their Group B campaign – starting against UAE at Allianz Stadium.

The Melbourne-born midfielder, who caught the eye with his work rate and danger in front of goal, said he'd been delighted to start for the first time.

"It's something you dream about as a kid and something I've given everything to try to achieve over the last 12 months," he added, while admitting the outcome had been disappointing.

"If we'd carried on and got the second before half-time or straight after half-time, it might have killed the game a little bit more," he said.

"We offered them a chance to come back into the game and a team with nothing to lose can throw everything at you and that's what they did and that led to them equalising."

Australia are 1/3 to beat the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. The visitors are 9/1 while the draw is 4/1.

Irvine's display has put him in line to retain a starting spot in Sydney, especially with midfield partner Aaron Mooy suspended after picking up a yellow card against Iraq.

"We've got an incredibly strong squad with a lot of boys in the same position as me, ready and willing and firing to step in and do a job," he said.

"There are plenty of options and everyone will be chomping to get that starting spot because it's looking like a must-win game."

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Socceroos held again

Australia are still well placed to qualify for next year's World Cup in Russia, despite stretching their winless run to four games with a 1-1 draw away to Iraq.

Mathew Leckie put the Socceroos ahead just before the break in Tehran, in a game played in difficult conditions.

But Iraq's attacking persistence paid off when substitute Ahmed Yasin produced a second-half equaliser.

Attempts to play quality football on a poor PAS Stadium pitch made even more difficult by rain were in vain, and it was an extra test for coach Ange Postecoglou's new 3-4-3 formation, featuring a back three of Mark Milligan, Milos Degenek and Bailey Wright.

Aaron Mooy's corner five minutes from the interval picked out Leckie, who headed home at the near post.

Midway through the second half a terrific cross from Ali Adnan found Yasin, who squared things up.

Postecoglou said his side's inability to get the win wasn't down to the introduction of the new system.

"When they're knocking long balls and it's a contest in the air, it's irrelevant what system you're playing," he said.

"It's about winning the ball in that area and in the second half, it just seemed every time they'd knock a long ball, they'd win the first header and we'd be scrambling to try and get control of the game.

"In the end we just invited pressure on ourselves and paid the price."

Australia, who are bidding to qualify for a fourth consecutive World Cup, next face UAE in Sydney on Tuesday knowing maximum points are needed if they are to retain hopes of claiming one of the two automatic qualification spots in Group B.

Australia are 1/3 to beat the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. The visitors are 9/1 while the draw is 4/1.

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Swans warned of work to do

Swansea City playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson has urged his side to ensure they finish the season strongly and avoid relegation from the Premier League.

The Swans, 25/1 to be relegated, were in desperate trouble earlier on in the campaign after winning just three of their first 19 games in the league this season.

However, the arrival of new head coach Paul Clement sparked a revival, with City having won five of their last ten Premier League matches, including a 3-2 victory at Liverpool and a 2-0 triumph over champions Leicester City.

Losses in their last two games against Hull City and Bournemouth, though, have left Sigurdsson and co still anxiously looking over their shoulders, with just three points separating the Swans from the relegation places.

The Iceland international told Goal.com: "The results in the last couple of games haven't been as good as we would have hoped. There's still a long way to go.

"If you look at the bigger picture, with where we were at Christmas and where we are at the moment, we have made a big step towards safety, but it's a really tough season with a lot more football to be played.

"Hopefully we can continue the good work that we have been doing over the last six or seven weeks and we stay up."

Next up, a week on Sunday, is a potentially crucial clash with Middlesbrough at the Liberty Stadium, with the visitors five points worse off than their hosts.

Swansea are 10/11 to claim a vital victory and are 8/1 to win the game by a 2-0 scoreline, with the Welshmen 1/100 not to be relegated come the end of the season.

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Season all but over for Sakho

Injury-hit West Ham striker Diafra Sakho is almost certain to miss the rest of the season as he continues his recovery from back surgery.

The 27-year-old Senegal international has been sidelined since scoring in the 1-1 Premier League draw at Manchester United in late November, having made just one other appearance so far this season.

And, with time running out for a return before the summer, Hammers head of medical and sports science Stijn Vandenbroucke has confirmed that Sakho is more than a month away from being able to make a return to training.

He told the official club website: "We must be mindful that Diaf is essentially at the start of his own personal pre-season training schedule.

"When players return from their off-season, they will go through four to five weeks of pre-season work to build up their strength and fitness.

"After undergoing back surgery and three months of rehab, a player needs time to reach sufficient fitness levels before we can contemplate making him available for selection in the Premier League."

Senegal international Sakho joined the Irons in the summer of 2014 from French side Metz, but has been restricted to 46 league appearances since making the move, netting 16 goals in the process.

West Ham return to action after the international break when they head to Hull City on Saturday 1st April.

The can be backed at 23/10 to pick up all three points at the KCOM Stadium, with the draw 12/5 and a 1-0 win for the visitors available at 11/1.

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Davies dismisses hangover talk

Wales left-back Ben Davies says he and his colleagues are determined to get back to winning ways in their bid to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Davies, who missed the 1-1 home draw with Serbia in November due to injury, has dismissed talk of he and his team-mates struggling to cope with the added pressure stemming from having reached the European Championship semi-finals last year.

Wales opened their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 4-0 thumping of Moldova, but have since been held to draws by Austria, Georgia and Serbia.

That leaves them facing a highly important clash with the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Friday evening, which Wales are 2/1 to win, with the draw priced at 2/1.

However, a defiant Davies told reporters: "There has been no hangover from the Euros. It was always going to be hard to match our efforts from the summer, but as a group we are determined to give it every effort and to push as far as we can.

"It is difficult to say what exactly has been going on, we've put our best foot forward in every game and, hopefully, our luck will be (better) going forward and we can pick up a few wins."

Wales head coach Chris Coleman, who has star players Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey both fit and firing, had earlier dismissed talk of the game in Dublin being a must-win for his side.

He had told reporters: "People will look at this and say it's do or die, but I don't see that. All I see is a huge challenge, a great game for us.

"We've always wanted to be involved in games like this, when the pressure is on for all the right reasons."

The hosts will be without Robbie Brady, Wes Hoolahan, Ciaran Clark, Harry Arter, Daryl Murphy and Shane Duffy, while midfielder James McCarthy remains a major doubt.

Ireland, who currently top Group D, are available at 9/5 to win on home soil on Friday and are 11/8 to qualify for the World Cup finals next year.

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Olsson exits ‘strong’ Baggies

Jonas Olsson claims he is leaving West Brom in "a strong position" after ending his nine-year spell at the Hawthorns to join Djurgarden IF.

The 34-year-old former Sweden international central defender made 253 appearances, scoring 14 goals, for the Baggies since joining from Dutch Eredivisie side NEC Nijmegen in summer 2008.

Olsson has struggled for first-team action under Tony Pulis this season with the likes of Gareth McAuley, Craig Dawson and Jonny Evans ahead of him in the pecking order.

As a result the club agreed to release him on a free transfer and he has now returned to his homeland to join Stockholm-based Djurgarden IF a week before the new Swedish season gets under way.

Olsson is looking forward to continuing his career, while he is confident that West Brom will continue to go from strength to strength as they currently sit eighth in the Premier League on 43 points.

"It's all happened so quickly I've not had chance to say a proper farewell to so many people," Olsson said on the club's website.

"I will be back at the first chance to do that. But I'm really grateful to the club for helping me sort out this transfer.

"I still feel I have a few good years in me but such is the quality of the competition at Albion for places in my position, it was getting harder and harder to see a first-team opportunity.

"Albion has been and will always be a huge part of my life and it is great to feel I am leaving it in such a strong position."

Albion are 8/1 to win at Manchester United when the Premier League action resumes on 1st April following the international break. The Red Devils are 2/5 to win and the draw is 4/1.

Sky Blues ponder Brillante switch

Sydney FC are considering moving midfielder Josh Brillante into defence for Sunday's trip to Perth Glory.

The Sky Blues will secure the Premier's Plate and also set a new A-League points record if they win at nib Stadium, but they will be without defender Rhyan Grant and keeper Danny Vukovic through international duty.

Grant's absence is a particular problem, as Seb Ryall isn't available to replace him as he's still suffering from a hamstring problem.

Brillante could drop back into the right-back spot, or coach Graham Arnold could switch central defender Aaron Calver out wide.

"Aaron Calver is 100 per cent fit; he's trained enormously the last two weeks and more. He hasn't been injured, he's just been on the bench or left out," said Arnold.

"He comes back into calculations. He's played right-back for us before and he's done a good job, so he's a potential to play."

The alternative is to move Brillante from his preferred defensive midfield role, allowing Milos Dimitrijevic to make his return to the starting side to partner Brandon O'Neill in midfield.

Though Brillante hasn't played at right-back for the Sky Blues this season, he started four games as a fullback for Como in the Italian Serie B last year.

Arnold said not having to play last weekend, due to the split round, had given the club a good chance to recharge their batteries.

"We've been able to work a lot on things, the one percenters we needed to work on, and for the boys last week was a very good training week physically," added the coach.

Sydney FC are 21/20 to beat Perth, who are 11/5, with the draw 3/1.

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Southgate pleased in defeat

Gareth Southgate claimed his England side put on a "very good performance" and adapted well to a new system despite the 1-0 defeat against Germany.

The Three Lions' chief opted to utilise a 3-4-3 formation in Dortmund and watched as his side impressed, particularly in the first half when Adam Lallana struck a post and Dele Alli saw a shot well saved by Germany keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Former Arsenal striker Lukas Podolski's stunning effort on 69 minutes, in his final game for his country, was enough to win the international friendly for Joachim Low's men.

However, Southgate was encouraged about England's display in what was his first permanent game at the helm since replacing Sam Allardyce last September.

"We have to reflect on a very good performance," Southgate told BBC Radio 5 live.

"In these matches it's important that you learn something from the game, and it's important that the level of performance is high.

"It was a good way to impose ourselves on them, to have attacking positions which could cause them problems and that's how it panned out."

As for the use of a three-man defence, Southgate insisted that the squad can adapt to any system and he was pleased with the way they did on this occasion.

The 46-year-old added: "We were a threat on the counter-attack, but we could also pass through them as well.

"We have exciting wide players if we want to play with wingers, and it's very much horses for courses. We can see the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition."

England, who are 1/50 to win the 2018 World Cup qualification Group F, are in next in action against Lithuania at Wembley on Sunday.

The Three Lions are 9/2 to win 3-0, while Lithuania can be backed at 45/1 to win and the draw is 11/1.