Martin O’Neill’s Ireland face a big four days as six points is a must to keep hopes of Euro 2016 qualification alive and the Boys in Green should suffer no problems in Faro as they face European minnows Gibraltar.
The newest nation to the European qualifying have yet to register a win and have scored just one goal with a whopping 34 against. They would give San Marino a run for their money.
Ireland enjoyed a 7-0 win over Gibraltar when they visited Dublin last October in which top scorer Robbie Keane netted an hat-trick, just one goal less of Ireland’s biggest ever a win which was an 8-0 victory over Malta in 1983.
I really don’t know why Gibraltar bothered entering qualification and their miserable campaign resulted in the team pulling out of competition and will not feature in World Cup 2018 qualifying.
Ireland are going to win this, there is no doubt but Martin O’Neill could freshen up his team ahead of tough games against Germany and Poland in October.
Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, James McClean, Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson are all one booking away from a suspension and the gaffer really has no need feature the quintet and risk them missing Monday’s clash against Georgia.
Both Aberdeen striker Adam Rooney and Bournemouth’s Eunan O’Kane will be pushing to feature against Gibraltar and earn her first international cap for their country.
Dubliner Rooney scored 18 goals in the Scottish Premiership last season and already has four goals in five games this season. Derry man O’Kane has enjoyed a strong start for Bournemouth in the Premier League but will O’Neill start with these new faces?
I doubt that O’Neill may start the new duo but I hope to see them in some sort of form either against Gibraltar and Georgia and see what they can do in the green jersey.
Looking at the squad, I expect Stoke’s Shay Given in-goal and if those who are one booking away from suspension are rested, then I expect Coleman and Wilson drop out of defence.
A defence of Reading’s Paul McShane, John O’ Shea, Richard Keogh with Robbie Brady starting at left-back could feature, with championship duo David Meyler and Jeff Hendrick an experimental midfield partnership.
I hope to see Wes Hoolahan who has enjoyed a fine start with Norwich in the Premier League start in the number ten role, behind Shane Long of Southampton as a lone striker, although Robbie Keane is a more likely contender to start ahead of the Southampton man.
Out-of-favour Everton winger Aiden McGeady and Jonathan Walters would feature on the wings, with West Brom man James McClean who is on the verge of suspension rested. Whatever XI is picked should pick up three points, but I don’t see the point in taking risks.
Georgia won’t be the toughest test of the final four games but we will need a strong line-up, then again if Coleman and McCarthy start in Dublin on Monday night and pick up a yellow, they would miss the Germany game which would be a bigger loss.
Therefore, you could argue that Coleman and McCarthy should start tonight and get suspension out-of-the-way should they pick up a yellow card and miss the Georgia game rather than the much tougher test against Germany, when we will need all of our best players available.
It will be interesting what team sheet is presented later this evening but whatever starting line-up O’Neill chooses, Ireland should be leaving Faro with all three points and at least four or five goals to help boost our goal difference.
Prediction: Gibraltar 0-4 Ireland