Stephen Kenny's reign as Ireland manager has been littered with injuries, Covid cases and general misfortune and he faces into an away trip to Portugal with another headache with a number of absentees shortening his hand.
A noticeable absentee from the squad announced last week was the omission of Darren Randolph. The experienced West Ham goalie has been an ever present for Ireland since Shay Given's retirement, but with a lack of first team appearances and with perhaps one eye on the future, Kenny has opted for youth. Gavin Bazunu started the game against Luxembourg earlier in the qualifiers and will likely start again here, ahead of Liverpool's Caoimhin Kelleher.
The big question here will be whether or not Kenny opts for a back three in order to solidify the defensive effort which will be under pressure against a star-studded Portuguese attack. Shane Duffy's recent return to form will be a big boost, while Seamus Coleman and John Egan would likely partner the Derry man in that three-man wall. Matt Doherty will likely revert to his favourites right wing-back position while James McClean will be asked to slot in on the left in the absence of Enda Stevens.
Midfield is looking like the biggest area of concern for Kenny, with a number of key players having not played much football so far for their respective clubs this season, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane in particular. Jason Molumby's recent loan move to West Brom will be welcomed as he tries to get minutes under his belt, but Kenny will likely go for a midfield three of Josh Cullen, Molumby and Hourihane who have featured regularly so far in previous games.
Youth has taken over in this division for Ireland so far in qualification as Adam Idah, Aaron Connolly and Troy Parrott will all be vying for a starting place. Idah has had a few league appearances off the bench for Norwich , as has Connolly for Brighton but neither have gotten on the scoresheet so far this term. Parrott is in the best scoring form out of the trio and has bagged a few goals in a good start to his loan spell at MK Dons, so Kenny might be eager to use this confidence. Idah's physicality will be needed to hold up the ball so we may see Parrott partner the Norwich man up top.
Seamus Coleman John Egan Shane Duffy
Matt Doherty James McClean
Jayson Molumby Josh Cullen Conor Hourihane
Adam Idah Troy Parrott
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