With the Republic of Ireland having started a second string side against Oman, we look at the possible starting eleven that Martin O’ Neill will deploy for the important European Championship Qualifier away to Georgia on Sunday.
GK: David Forde
Shay Given’s pedigree is undisputed but, as he just back in the International set-up following retirement, it would be unfair to drop Forde. The stopper has performed admirably since being handed the number one jersey following Given’s exit and O’Neill is likely to keep faith with the former Galway United keeper who has been impressive for Milwall in the last number of seasons.
RB: Seamus Coleman
The right back position is one where Ireland are lucky to possess the quality of the Premier League’s best full back. The Everton defender has already been in impressive form for the Toffees this season scoring against Arsenal.
Ireland may look to Coleman and Everton colleague Aiden McGeady to link up on the right wing.
CB: John O’ Shea
John O’Shea is also nailed on to start and he will provide important experience and leadership as Ireland look to keep a clean sheet against Georgia.
With Richard Dunne having retired from the international game, there will be greater emphasis on the former Manchester United defender to step forward and lead by example.
CB: Alex Pearce
Alex Pearce could be the man to partner O’Shea at the heart of Ireland’s defence. The Reading defender performed well in Wednesday night’s friendly win over Oman and even notched a goal. Another assured performance is expected in Tbilisi.
LB: Marc Wilson
Marc Wilson is also likely to start and while he could be used in a centre half role, Ireland are short of quality at the left back position and the Stoke City defender should arguably be used as a full back. Wilson’s reliability will provide better defensive quality than the shaky Stephen Ward.
RM: Aiden McGeady
Aiden McGeady has received a significant amount of criticism in the past for his lack of end product, both at club and international level. However this has improved somewhat since his move to Everton.
If the former Celtic man starts on the right wing he could link up with Seamus Coleman in what would be a formidable partnership out wide and prove to be an important attacking outlet for Ireland in Tblisi on Sunday.
CM: James McCarthy & Glenn Whelan
James McCarthy and Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan provide Ireland with a combative midfield and McCarthy has shown at Everton that he has the quality in possession to keep the ball which will be crucial in an away tie.
Ireland have often struggled to keep possession when playing away, even against supposedly inferior opposition. With Darron Gibson just back from injury expect Whelan to get the nod to partner McCarthy in midfield, with Gibson likely to feature from the bench.
LM: Anthony Pilkington
James McClean had been expected to start but he is now likely to be ruled out through injury. Hull City’s Robbie Brady could also be in contention for a left wing role and the former Manchester United player has been recognised as one of the most technically gifted individuals to break onto the international scene in the last number of years.
Anthony Pilkington and Jonathan Walters are also options for the wide positions. Expect McGeady to start on the right but the left wing position is not secure. There could be one position up for grabs in midfield, but Anthony Pilkington may just have done enough to start against Georgia.
ST: Robbie Keane & Shane Long
Ireland’s record goal scorer is bound to start and Shane Long is likely to get the nod with Jonathan Walters kept in reserve. Walters no longer has the legs he used to and Long does possess greater pace which could be an asset for Ireland on the counter attack.
If Ireland are to get their campaign off to a good start a front two of Long & Keane needs to be on-form on Sunday.
So there we have it, this is the expected Ireland XI for Sunday’s massive game in Tbilisi.
DF: Coleman, O’Shea, Pearce, Wilson
MF: McGeady, McCarthy, Whelan, Pilkington
ST: Keane, Long
The XI named above should have enough quality to come away with a point at the very least in Tbilisi, a tough place to secure an away victory. Let’s hope that the Boys In Green put in a quality performance and get the campaign off to a flyer.
Dan Dalton, Pundit Arena.
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