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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Will Alan Judge get his chance and 4 more Ireland-Switzerland talking points

Meanwhile, the Boys in Green will be hoping their excellent recent home record remains intact.

Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

1. Will Alan Judge get his chance?

WHILE HE HAS yet to win a cap at senior level, Alan Judge would be a legitimate contender for Irish player of the season at club level.

Were it not for his efforts, Brentford would be a lot lower than 18th position in the Championship right now, given that he has either scored or assisted 23 of their 48 goals so far this season.

The 27-year-old attacking midfielder remains far from a certainty to make the Euros squad, given his lack of international experience, but will surely get a chance to stake a claim for a place on the plane either tonight or on Tuesday against Slovakia.

If he can replicate his club form in the coming days, Judge may well turn out to be a useful alternative to Wes Hoolahan in the 10 role this summer.

2. What formation will Martin O’Neill opt for?

More often than not so far, Martin O’Neill has favoured some variation of 4-5-1 during his tenure as Ireland manager.

Against Bosnia in the home leg, Ireland’s style was flexible, with wingers switching sides and Daryl Murphy, Shane Long and Jon Walters all taking turns occupying the lone frontman role.

Assuming O’Neill is planning on sticking with this winning formula at the Euros, expect more of the same tonight, with Long leading the line initially, and either Hoolahan or Judge behind him.

That said, friendlies are for experimentation, and O’Neill was known to favour three at the back during his Celtic days, while the 64-year-old coach has gone with 4-4-2 in previous Ireland matches, so a complete overhaul in approach cannot be ruled out.

3. How competitive will the match be?

Looking back on Ireland’s recent friendlies, it would be hard to describe many as genuinely ‘memorable’ occasions.

There have been occasional exciting matches — the 0-0 draw with Italy at Craven Cottage in May 2014 springs to mind — but more often than not, they are dour affairs, with the 0-0 stalemate against England last May very much a typical example of the latter.

Unlike the average friendly though, there is plenty up for grabs tonight, with both sides likely to feature players who will be fighting for a place in the teams’ respective Euro 2016 squads this summer.

Consequently, it will be disappointing if there isn’t a bit of spice injected into proceedings by the inexperienced players tonight, owing to the potential prizes at stake.

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4. Are Switzerland any good?

Based on the Euro 2016 qualifiers, Ireland have little to fear as they prepare to take on Switzerland.

The Swiss finished runners-up in an unremarkable qualifying group, behind England and ahead of Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino.

Vladimir Petkovic’s side boast some quality players, most notably Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Juventus’ Stephan Lichtsteiner, but the majority of their contingent are workmanlike but undistinguished and invariably play for lower-ranked European clubs.

A note of caution, though — the Boys in Green have failed to win any of their last four matches with Switzerland, losing two and drawing two.

5. Home comforts for the Boys in Green?

Since Martin O’Neill took over, Ireland have lost five times in total.

Of those matches, two were at the Aviva Stadium, but the last defeat came against Turkey as far back as May 2014 and the one before that was the previous March against Serbia.

Since then, the Boys in Green have gone on a nine-match unbeaten run on home turf, and they’ll be looking to extend that record against Switzerland tonight.

They still have a long way to go before beating the overall record though — during Jack Charlton’s reign, the Irish side went three years and 16 matches unbeaten at international level.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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