Ireland v Gibraltar: Probable team, match details and where a win will leave us with four games remaining
A win with a few goals to spare, as expected, will leave Mick McCarthy's Ireland in a commanding position in Group D going into the second half of the qualification campaign for Euro 2020.
With the tougher half of the group still to negotiate, three points this evening will leave Mick McCarthy's men on 10 points and at least four clear of the rest, depending on the outcome of the other Group D clash between Denmark and Georgia in Copenhagen. Should Denmark beat Georgia, the gap will be five points with the Danes having played a game less.
Switzerland, who currently occupy second spot on four points after two matches, were in action in the Nations League where they were beaten to third place by England on penalties and will have two games in hand on Ireland after tonight.
The expectation is that the Swiss will need maximum points from those two games to go level on points with the Boys In Green.
But McCarthy and Ireland fans will be acutely aware that the more difficult four games are still top come, with Gibraltar already played at home and away after the 7.45pm clash tonight.
Group D table:
Probable Ireland team v Gibraltar:
March 23, 2019:
Euro 2020 Qualifier, Victoria Stadium
Gibraltar 0 Ireland 1
Gibraltar: Goldwin; Sergeant, R Chipolina, J Chipolina, Olivero; Annesley (Priestley 64); Casciaro, Walker, Bardon, Hernandez (Pons 78, ) De Barr
Republic of Ireland: Randolph, Coleman, Duffy, Keogh, Stevens; Doherty (Brady 56), Hourihane, Hendrick, McClean; McGoldrick; Maguire (Arter 72)
Goals: Hendrick 49
Denmark v Georgia, Republic of Ireland v Gibraltar
Republic of Ireland v Switzerland, Gibraltar v Denmark
Switzerland v Gibraltar (18:00), Georgia v Denmark (18:00)
Georgia v Republic of Ireland (15:00), Denmark v Switzerland (18:00)
Switzerland v Republic of Ireland, Gibraltar v Georgia
Switzerland v Georgia, Denmark v Gibraltar
Gibraltar v Switzerland, Republic of Ireland v Denmark
■ Gibraltar's manager is Julio César Ribas, a Uruguayan who has managed Oman – a familiar opponent for Irish fans – and played 15 times for his country during his playing career. Most of his experience is in the club field back at home, but he had a stint in Spain before moving to Gibraltar where he was in charge of the Lincoln Red Imps team that shocked Celtic at the Victoria Stadium in Brendan Rodgers' first match in charge. Spanish is his first language, but his players all speak English and the local dialect – a mix of Andalusian Spanish and British English – is common ground for the various members of the squad.
■ If Ireland can behave themselves tonight, then suspensions are unlikely to become a major factor in this campaign given that it's only an eight match series – barring red cards of course. Players need to pick up three bookings before they miss a game. At this point, only three Irish players have picked up a solitary yellow – Enda Stevens and James McClean were booked in Gibraltar and Conor Hourihane was cautioned last Friday. The disciplinary record was perfect at home to Georgia and more of the same is required tonight.
■ It would be a surprise if this game passed by without at least one Irish player scoring their first international goal. The current squad is light on players with experience of hitting the net for their country. James McClean (right) is the top scorer with 10 goals, with Robbie Brady next on seven. Shane Duffy has three, while Glenn Whelan and Jeff Hendrick have two and Seamus Coleman, Richard Keogh and Conor Hourihane all have one. Strikers David McGoldrick, Callum Robinson, Sean Maguire and Scott Hogan will all be desperate for involvement as they will fancy their chances of breaking their duck.
Radu Petrescu (Romania)
The status of the game tends to be reflected by the profile of the referee. Friday's official – Cuneyt Cakir – is one of Europe's most experienced and best known officials. For this lower stakes affair, it's young Romania ref Petrescu. He has gained most of his experience outside Romania in early stage Champions League and Europa League matches in addition to youths games. He was in the middle for Cork's Champions League tie with Legia Warsaw in Turner's Cross last year.
DID YOU KNOW?
Two of Gibraltar's English based players – Jack Sergeant and Jamie Coombes – play for West Didsbury & Chorlton. They didn't have a good season as their club was relegated from the North West Counties Football League which is the ninth tier of English football.
Ireland 1/50; Draw 25/1; Gibraltar 100/1