The team Stephen Kenny should start against Serbia
The bookmakers rarely get it wrong and the 5/1 being quoted for Ireland to beat Serbia this Wednesday night gives us all a cold dose of reality.
No matter what way you look at it, Irish football is not the force it once was with this fall from grace is reflected in our players' status in the game. Only 11 of the 29-man squad heading to Belgrade are Premier League players with fewer still first choice at their top tier clubs.
It goes a long way to summing up the tough task at hand for Stephen Kenny and co. as they bid to make it to the World Cup, a task that has been made even tougher by some cruel recent luck with injuries.
The stats have not been favourable for the new manager in his first eight games but there had been some positive signs, namely a more comfortable feel in possession of the ball. Possession doesn't move the scoreboard though and the bottom line is that Ireland's attacking players must become more clinical when the chances come.
"My frame of mind is I want Ireland to get to the World Cup" 🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/K7uYm963jm
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) March 23, 2021
For this job, we are entrusting Shane Long with the responsibilities. The Tipp man has scored twice in eight games for his new club Bournemouth and his pace, strength and aerial ability will give Serbia more headaches than the alternatives.
Jayson Molumby and Jason Knight are our holding midfielders with Robbie Brady picked in a more advanced role. Matt Doherty misses out but will be an option from the bench as will Troy Parrott and potentially James Collins.
Despite the long list of injuries, it's still a moderate line-up with Enda Stevens and Aaron Connolly potentially forming a dynamic pairing on the left hand side.
Ireland v Serbia, 7.45, Belgrade.