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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 18 April, 2019
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Can McGeady make up for Glasgow and the key battles for Ireland v Scotland

We pick 5 head-to-heads that are likely to have a significant bearing on how Saturday’s Euro 2016 qualifier unfolds.

Seamus Coleman v Ikechi Anya

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group D - Scotland v Republic of Ireland - Hampden Park Source: Jeff Holmes

WATFORD WINGER IKECHI Anya pips Shaun Maloney as Scotland’s most explosive player and, although he featured at right full-back in the recent friendly win over Qatar, the 27-year-old is likely to switch back to his more familiar role in an attacking position wide on the left.

The pace of Anya, who is set to earn his 15th cap in Dublin, has been utilised regularly in this campaign and he has started all five qualifiers so far — scoring once and creating two assists.

That said, Ireland’s regular number 2 Seamus Coleman is no slouch either. The Everton man has enough ability and experience to deal with Anya’s threat, but it may prevent him from getting forward to contribute to attacks as regularly as he would like to.

Aiden McGeady v Alan Hutton

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group D - Germany v Republic of Ireland - Veltins-Arena Source: Joe Giddens

So much of the pre-match talk revolved around Scottish-born pair Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy returning to play in Glasgow and the former Celtic star has admitted that booing from the Parkhead crowd got to him. As with many of the Irish players, McGeady produced an extremely disappointing performance on that November night, especially after his match-winning display in Tblisi.

The 29-year-old can put that experience behind him when he most likely lines out against Alan Hutton. The Aston Villa defender may have turned his club career around last season, but McGeady has enough in his locker to cause his marker plenty of problems.

Shane Long v David Marshall

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group D - Georgia v Republic of Ireland - Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena Source: Nick Potts

Martin O’Neill has some tough decisions to make all over the pitch but, whoever he starts up front, the call is likely to split opinion. Long was handed his only competitive start of the current qualifying campaign in the reverse fixtures in Glasgow, as Robbie Keane was dropped to the bench for the first significant game in over a decade.

Long  didn’t receive much service at all on that occasion, but came on as a substitute to rescue a 1-1 draw against Poland back in March. Incredibly, that was just his second competitive goal in a green jersey and the Southampton striker needs to seize moments like this if he wants to become Keane’s long-term replacement.

Glenn Whelan v Steven Naismith

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2016 - Qualifying - Group D - Georgia v Republic of Ireland - Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Along with James McCarthy, the much-maligned Glenn Whelan missed the meeting of these two teams through injury seven months ago, when Darron Gibson and Jeff Hendrick were overrun by Scotland. The fact that both are fit this time around is a huge boost for Martin O’Neill.

He may get a hard time from fans but Whelan is the man most-suited to keeping Steven Naismith quiet. At Celtic Park, Everton’s schemer was given far too much time and space, which allowed him to drop into pockets, pick up possession and link up with Maloney on numerous occasions throughout the 90 minutes.

Wes Hoolahan v Charlie Mulgrew

Wes Hoolahan Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

He may not be Lionel Messi, but Wes Hoolahan is Ireland’s most creative outlet by a long way and has proved that time and time again when given the opportunity to play. As usual, O’Neill will give little or nothing away until his team is actually named on Saturday afternoon, but starting the Norwich City man in behind a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 appears to be our best bet for success, at least in this writer’s humble opinion.

Celtic’s versatile Charlie Mulgrew was excellent in a defensive midfield role against Ireland, but is only returning from five months on the sidelines. He played 45 minutes against Qatar and will be vying for a place in the Scottish midfield alongside skipper Scott Brown.

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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