REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
The Boys in Green will play their biggest game yet in this France 2016 qualification campaign on Thursday (kick off 7.45pm), as they welcome world champions Germany to the Aviva Stadium, on the same night that Poland play Scotland in Hampden Park in another crucuial game in Group D.
Ireland will be desperate to get something from this game, as they come into the penultimate game currently in the playoff position in the group, four points ahead of the Scots, and two points behind second placed Poland (who they play on Sunday).
They will be bolstered by the fact that they have won their last two qualification games, hammering Gibraltar 4-0 in Faro and beating Georgia 1-0 in Dublin.
If Ireland are to beat the second best team in the world (according to the latest FIFA World Rankings), they are going to have to do one better than they did in the Veltins-Arena when they drew 1-1 thanks to that last minute goal from John O’Shea on his 100th cap.
Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane will definitely be without Everton defender Seamus Coleman and will most definitely be without Jack Grealish, who pledged his allegiance to the country of his birth. Although on a brighter note, captain Robbie Keane joined back up with the squad on Wednesday, after the birth of his child in LA.
Both Cyrus Christie and Wes Hoolahan, who were doubts during the week, are both available for selection.
This is the first time ‘Die Mannschaft’ have played in Dublin since they demolished Ireland 6-1 in the qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup, a competition which they went on to win outright.
Germany, who are top of the group, can confirm qualification to next summer’s tournament in France with at least a draw.
Just like Ireland, Germany have also won back to back games, beating Poland 3-1 in Frankfurt and 3-2 away to Scotland.
Galatasaray striker Lukas Podolski is out of Thursday’s game due to an ankle injury he picked up playing for the Turkish side. Winger Karim Bellarabi of Bayer Leverkusen is also a doubt because of a shoulder problem, but they do welcome Marco Reus back into the squad.
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain).
This will be the 20th meeting between the two sides in all competitions. Germany have won nine times, Ireland five and there has been five draws between the two teams.
The first game between these two nations was back in 1935. Germany, who were the hosts, won that game by a score line of 3-1. Ex-Bohs player Plev Ellis scored for the Boys in Green that day.
Ireland beat the Germans for the first time in Dalymount Park the year after, winning out by 5 goals to 2.
Ireland 5/1; Draw 10/3; Germany 1/2.
Ireland 1 - 3 Germany
Injured: Seamus Coleman, Stephen Quinn, Ciaran Clark, Harry Arter.
Suspension: Glenn Whelan, James McClean.
Injured: Lukas Podolski.
Doubtful: Karim Bellarabi.