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Dublin: 7°C Monday 12 April 2021

What starting XI should Ireland put out against Serbia?

Here’s the line-up we would like to see Martin O’Neill go with in the first game of the World Cup qualifiers.

The team that lined out against Oman this week.
The team that lined out against Oman this week.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A NEW campaign beckons in Belgrade tomorrow, and not a huge amount has changed with this Ireland team.

Despite the fact that he has yet to sign a contract extension with the FAI, Martin O’Neill remains in charge and will aim to lead the Boys in Green to their first World Cup in 16 years — beginning with a tricky game away to Serbia on Monday night.

Sure, Shay Given and Robbie Keane have retired since Euro 2016, but it has been quite awhile since the vastly-experienced pair were regular starters.

Although Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers and Bristol City youngster Callum O’Dowda have recently been added to the squad, the likelihood is that neither will play any part at the Stadion Rajko Mitic.

So, with the exception of the injured James McCarthy and possibly John O’Shea and Seamus Coleman, who are both doubts, it’s a familiar list of names to choose from.

Below, we’ve gone and picked the line-up we would like to see start against Serbia — where a draw would be looked upon as a decent result.

Darren Randolph’s only two club appearances for West Ham this season have come in the Europa League, but the Wicklow stopper is still O’Neill’s number one, and rightly so.

With Coleman a potential absentee, Derby County’s Cyrus Christie is the best option to fill in on the right side of the back four.

Roy Keane said this week that John O’Shea should be fit enough to play, so the veteran Sunderland man goes in alongside another Derby player, Richard Keogh, at centre-half, with Ciaran Clark and Marc Wilson missing out.

Stephen Ward has nailed down the left full-back position for Burnley on their return to the top flight, and his inclusion allows Ireland to utilise Robbie Brady in midfield.

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Glenn Whelan sits at the base of the three-man midfield, with Jeff Hendrick and Harry Arter providing energy and invention ahead of him.

Brady and Jon Walters will start out wide but they are encouraged to get forward as often as possible in possession to support lone striker Shane Long, who gets the nod over Daryl Murphy, as well as also tucking back in when Ireland don’t have the ball.

There’s an argument that the team could lack creativity without the ever-probing Wes Hoolahan, but he and James McClean offer genuine options from the bench if Ireland need to change things up at any stage.

Ireland XI Serbia

What do you make of the team and who would you start?

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About the author:

Ben Blake

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