England will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they face off against the Republic of Ireland at the Wembley Stadium in a friendly.

The final international break of 2020 is upon us, with teams scheduled to play three times over the next ten days or so. And, England will kick things off on Thursday night when they lock horns with the Republic of Ireland at Wembley in a friendly encounter.

England head into the game on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Denmark in the UEFA Nations League, which ended their seven-game unbeaten streak. With important games against Belgium and Iceland coming up soon after, it is imperative that Gareth Southgate’s men get that winning momentum going if they are to end the year on a high.

Ireland, on the other hand, are without a win in their last six games and head into Thursday’s clash on the back of a 1-0 defeat to Finland in the Nations League. Manager Stephen Kenny will be hoping that his side are able to pick up a positive result at Wembley as they prepare for the upcoming games against Wales and Bulgaria.

The last time England and Ireland clashed against each other was in 2015, at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, with the game ending in a goalless draw. And, ahead of their latest meeting on Thursday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

England

Phil Foden has been recalled into the national team setup after being axed last time out. However, the same favour is not extended towards Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood. Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Ward-Prowse have withdrawn from the squad due to injuries. Marcus Rashford is a doubt for the game after picking up an injury at the weekend.

Borussia Dortmund’s 17-year-old sensation Jude Bellingham has earned his first-ever call-up after a strong start to his debut campaign in Germany. Southgate is expected to take the opportunity of the friendly setting on Thursday to give some of his non-regulars a run-out.

Nick Pope ought to get the nod in goal ahead of first-choice custodian Jordan Pickford. Joe Gomez is likely to start in the three-man defence alongside Wolves skipper Conor Coady and Manchester United captain Harry Maguire, who is suspended for the Nations League clash against Belgium.

Reece James, who is suspended for both the upcoming UEFA Nations League encounters, is in line to start in the friendly at right wing-back. On the opposite flank, Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka could get the nod on Thursday. Harry Winks is likely to start in the middle of the park, with vice-captain Jordan Henderson slotting in alongside him.

Jack Grealish ought to get the nod on the left flank against Ireland, who he represented at youth level. On the opposite flank, Jadon Sancho, who hasn’t had the best of starts to the season at Dortmund, is likely to feature. Everton’s in-form striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin should be the man spearheading the England attack.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Pope; Gomez, Coady, Maguire; James, Henderson, Winks, Saka; Sancho, Calvert-Lewin, Grealish

Ireland

Sheffield United defender Enda Stevens has withdrawn from the squad due to an injury, with Cyrus Christie being called up as his replacement. Stevens’s fellow Blades’ teammate David McGoldrick retired from international football last month. Captain Seamus Coleman returns to the national team setup after missing out last month due to a hamstring injury.

On Tuesday, the Irish FA confirmed that one member of the squad had tested positive for coronavirus, although the identity of the player hasn’t been revealed. The rest of the roster and the staff has tested negative ahead of the friendly. With the Nations League fixtures likely to take precedence, Kenny, too, is likely to field an experimental side.

Ireland are expected to set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in front of goalkeeper Darren Randolph. Tottenham’s Matt Doherty ought to start at right-back, while Robbie Brady is likely to slot in at left-back in Stevens’s absence. West Bromwich Albion youngster Dara O’Shea is in line for his second appearance for Ireland at centre-back alongside Burnley’s Kevin Long.

Conor Hourihane could get the nod in the middle of the park, with youngster Jayson Molumby likely to partner him in the double pivot for the visitors. Newcastle United midfielder Jeff Hendrick is expected to slot in as the attacking midfielder and look to make ghosting runs into the box.

James McClean, who has 10 goals in 75 caps for Ireland, ought to start on the left flank, while Brighton’s Aaron Connolly is in line to feature on the opposite wing. Leading the attack for the visitors should be Callum Robinson, with James Collins and Adam Idah providing options from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Doherty, O’Shea, Long, Brady; Molumby, Hourihane; Connolly, Hendrick, McClean; Robinson

Key Stats

  • Thursday’s match will be the 17th meeting between England and Ireland. The Three Lions have the slight upper-hand in the head-to-head record, having won five of the last 16 matches, compared to the latter’s two (D9).
  • However, England are without a win in their previous seven meetings against Ireland. Their last victory against the Boys in Green came way back in 1985.
  • The last six matches between England and Ireland have all ended in draws. Four of these fixtures have ended 1-1, with the remaining two finishing goalless.
  • England have lost just one of their last eight fixtures, although that defeat came in their most recent meeting against Denmark.
  • Gareth Southgate’s side have managed to keep six clean sheets in their last eight outings.

Player to Watch

Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish has been in brilliant form at club level (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Jack Grealish has been in brilliant form at club level (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The Aston Villa skipper has been in red-hot form heading into Thursday’s encounter against Ireland. And while Gareth Southgate may not always favour him, the 25-year-old is likely to get a start against the Irish national team and he will want to make the most of his chance.

So far in the 2020/21 campaign, Grealish has racked up a fine return of five goals and five assists in just eight games in all competitions. A strong performance against the Boys in Green and the Villa skipper will be pushing for a starting berth in the crucial Nations League games lined up after.

Prediction

England 1-0 Ireland

England have not been playing the most attractive brand of football in their recent matches, but have been just about getting over the line. Ireland, on the other hand, have not won a game since November last year, although their defence has been tough to break down.

So, it is likely to be a dull, low-scoring affair at Wembley this week. However, with the in-form duo of Jack Grealish and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in line to start, England might just be able to sneak a narrow win and put an end to the run of draws between the two countries.

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