The Republic of Ireland’s task against Switzerland on Tuesday night couldn’t be easier. If they win the match in Geneva, they will qualify for Euro 2020. Simple.
However, considering they couldn’t beat a team ranked 91st in the world – below Haiti, Syria and Oman – it is difficult to see how they will get the better of Switzerland, top seeds in Group D.
Not only did they fail to beat Georgia on Saturday, but Mick McCarthy also said he was happy with the result. How does a manager happy to draw with Georgia engineer a win over Switzerland away or Denmark at home?
That remains to be seen, but Ireland must do one of those things to reach the tournament next summer. They must also make some changes to the team that huffed and puffed its way through 90 goalless minutes in Tbilisi to stand any chance of getting a win against Switzerland.
Here is the team we would pick for the match, lining out in a 3-5-2 formation – partly to nullify Switzerland, who predominately use that formation. Just to note though, there is zero chance of McCarthy selecting this side
In goal, Darren Randolph retains his place. The Middlesbrough goalkeeper is a steady presence in the side and has been one of Ireland’s most consistent performers over the last few years.
Ahead of him, we have opted for a back three of John Egan, Shane Duffy and Matt Doherty.
McClean's performance condensed into 2 minutes. I've been reluctant to tweet it. I'm really not looking to single him out for unfair criticism as some will say. It's nothing personal. I'm aware no-one played well. But I think he stood out & often gets a free pass#COYBIG #GEOIRL pic.twitter.com/Io8R8nnYD0
— Robert Redmond (@RobRedmond10) October 13, 2019
Doherty is a wing-back and played at left-back on Saturday, but has played in central defence before and would be worth considering for the match in Geneva. McCarthy’s alternatives for the position are two lesser players – Derrick Williams and Kevin Long.
While not a natural centre-half, the Wolves wing-back could carry the ball out from the back and he would be more comfortable on his natural side on the right. With two defensive stoppers in the back three, Egan and Duffy, McCarthy could take a risk and use Doherty as a third centre-half, but he won’t.
At wing-back, Seamus Coleman and Enda Stevens start. Stevens was suspended for the draw with Georgia on Saturday. Doherty is a better wing-back than Coleman, but the Ireland captain probably isn’t tall enough to play in a back three. However, having both players in the team offers the chance to switch it up and rotate positions. It won’t happen though. McCarthy will pick a flat back four of Coleman, Duffy, Egan and Stevens.
In midfield, we have picked Josh Cullen, Jack Byrne and Conor Hourihane. Glenn Whelan and Jeff Hendrick drop out of the team that played against Georgia. Whelan probably shouldn’t have started the match as two games in four days is a lot to ask of a 35-year-old midfielder.
Cullen was excellent against Bulgaria last month and should have started against Georgia. He is comfortable in possession and dictating play from deep, but is also an energetic player, capable of covering a lot more ground than Whelan. The Charlton Athletic midfielder also linked up well with Byrne at the Aviva last month.
Hendrick drops out of this team after another largely anonymous performance against Georgia. The Burnley midfielder started well but faded from the game. Byrne should have come on in that match and should start against Switzerland.
It doesn’t matter that he plays for Shamrock Rovers, or that he has never played a competitive international for Ireland, no other midfielder in the squad has the vision and technique of Byrne. He created two goals against Bulgaria and has the ability to unlock defences. Hourihane retains his place partly because of his dead-ball deliveries.
Upfront, we have selected Aaron Connolly and Callum Robinson. James Collins drops out of the team that played on Saturday. Connolly was only on the pitch 17-minutes, but he had two of Ireland’s three shots on target against Georgia. The decision not to start the Brighton forward was dumbfounding. He simply must start against Switzerland.
View this post on Instagram
Mick McCarthy has said that he picked James Collins ahead of Aaron Connolly against Georgia because he wanted someone to defend set-pieces… “I was conscious of making sure we could defend free-kicks and corners with the bodies we had on the pitch. James Collins, who has had a right old scrap up there, he was defending the six-yard box “I wanted him as a presence up front and I thought he was, he fought with the centre-halves and we picked up a lot of second balls off him. What we didn’t do was enough with that second ball.”
Robinson should partner him. The Sheffield United forward, like the rest of the team, did not play well on Saturday, but he was used out of position on the right side of a front-three. We would see the best of Robinson more central and part of a front-two with Connolly.
The Ireland team we would pick is below. But there is no chance McCarthy will select this team. The smart money would be on him sticking with the same side from Saturday.