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Do you agree with our Ireland team to face Portugal?

Stephen Kenny has some tough calls to make ahead of Thursday’s encounter.

Updated Nov 10th 2021, 8:05 PM

Goalkeeper/defence

This area of the pitch looks more or less nailed on.

As has generally been the case in the last few matches, Gavin Bazunu will start in goals, and Shane Duffy, John Egan and Andrew Omobamidele will comprise a three-man backline unless the Norwich youngster fails a late fitness test and Stephen Kenny opts to either play Seamus Coleman as one of the centre-backs, as he did in the home match against Azerbaijan or hand Nathan Collins a competitive debut.

The likes of Caoimhin Kelleher and Mark Travers will almost certainly have to be content with backup roles.

Wing-backs

Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty (on the left) look odds on to start here, although both have had fitness issues of late, so it is not guaranteed.

Enda Stevens and James McClean had decent games in the last international window and both could come into contention again, while Ryan Manning looks very much on the periphery given how little game time he has had under Kenny of late.

Midfield

Kenny has chopped and changed quite a bit in this position for much of his reign but in recent matches, it looks as if he has finally settled on certain individuals.

The same midfield that started the away fixture against Portugal — Josh Cullen, Jeff Hendrick and Jamie McGrath — will more than likely go again on Thursday.

That said, Conor Hourihane did very well when given a chance against Qatar and could be an outside bet to feature, though while the Sheffield United loan star is arguably the better player in an attacking sense, Cullen’s defensive prowess will probably give him the edge.

McGrath started the last qualifier against Azerbaijan on the bench, but had a positive impact after being introduced at half-time and should get the nod on this occasion as the most attacking member of Ireland’s midfield trio.

Jeff Hendrick has looked rejuvenated in an Ireland jersey of late, though he still has just two Premier League appearances (both as a substitute) for Newcastle this season.

Meanwhile, the likes of Jason Knight and Alan Browne are decent options whose energy could be useful off the bench if Ireland are flagging late on.

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Attack

Adam Idah should once again get the nod up front, despite being kept on the bench for the entirety of last month’s win over Qatar, having come into that camp suffering from a spike in temperature.

Callum Robinson will almost certainly join him following a phenomenal five goals in two matches during the last window.

Chiedozie Ogbene scored off the bench in the last qualifier against Azerbaijan and Daryl Horgan started that game, but neither appear likely to feature from the outset tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Troy Parrott, Will Keane and Callum O’Dowda will likely have to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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