REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Stephen Kenny’s Ireland take on Serbia in a must-win World Cup qualifier as they look to arrest a winless slide at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off is at 7.45pm).
The Boys in Green were held to a costly 1-1 draw with Azerbaijan last time out on Saturday evening.
Shane Duffy’s late header was enough to save Kenny’s side from another home embarrassment.
But it is now getting to the stage where wins are a must for the former Dundalk boss.
With qualification essentially out of the question for the 2022 World Cup, Kenny was forced to batt away questions criticising his young side.
“I think there’s real progress overall to be honest. That’s the way I see it, the way my staff and all the coaches see it and there are a lot of people behind us.
“There are a lot of people who aren’t (behind them) who say ‘that’s not your job to develop the game here, your job is just to win the next game’.
“That kind of near-sightedness doesn’t create anything, you might beat teams that you should beat but you’ll never beat the teams you strive to beat.
“You’re trying to build something tangible over a period of time and that can be successful.
“I’ve done it because we have a very exciting squad emerging.
“We’ve not had a huge pool of players to pick from between the experienced players towards the end of their careers and the young players who are coming through.
“I’m very, very pleased with the emerging squad and some of our performances have been excellent, like against Portugal the other day.”
In terms of team news for Ireland, Seamus Coleman is the latest to miss out through injury. Cyrus Christie has taken the Everton full-back’s place in the squad as a result.
Serbia come into the Aviva Stadium showdown knowing that a win would almost secure a playoff spot at a minimum in their quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
The Serbs have picked up 10 points from a possible 12 so far during this qualifying campaign.
And with Ireland ten points behind Serbia with just four games to play, Kenny’s side face a tall order if they are to turn this gap around.
With his side on the verge of a playoff spot, Serbia boss Dragan Stojkovic admits that Irish football should be in a better place than it is in now.
“Irish football deserves to be in a better position. I remember years and years ago, it was difficult to play in Dublin.
“Ireland had great players but at this moment I don’t know.”
In terms of team news for Serbia, Matija Nastasic and Alexander Mitrovic are doubts for Stojkovic’s side.
Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez (Spain).
Since 2008, the Republic of Ireland have yet to defeat Serbia either home or away in a competitive or friendly game.
The Boys in Green are 15 games without a competitive win, with 11 of the winless games coming under current manager Stephen Kenny.
Since June 2019, Serbia have only lost twice away from home, with defeats coming on the road against Russia and Japan.
Republic of Ireland 14/5; Draw 23/10; Serbia EVENS.
Republic of Ireland 2 - 0 Serbia
Republic of Ireland
Injured: Enda Stevens, Chiedozie Ogbene, Jason Knight, Mark Travers, Callum O’Dowda, Nathan Collins, Dara O’Shea, Seamus Coleman.
Doubtful: Matija Nastasic, Alexander Mitrovic.
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