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Ireland v Belgium: TV details, kick-off time, team news and more



When is it on?

The Republic of Ireland will play Belgium in an international friendly on Saturday, March 23rd at 5pm at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

How can I watch it?

You can watch the game on Virgin Media Two, coverage starts from 4pm.

What is the team news for the game?

Liam Scales and Troy Parrott have been ruled out through injury for Ireland. Lyon defender Jake O’Brien, Blackburn Rovers attacking midfielder Sammie Szmodics, midfielder Finn Azaz are all set to win their first Ireland caps. Ryan Manning is a late call-up to the squad.

Romelu Lukaku has been ruled out of Saturday’s international friendly with a groin injury. The Roma striker joins Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on the high-profile list of absentees.

Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth)

Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Nathan Collins (Brentford), Andrew Omobamidele (Nottingham Forest), Dara O’Shea (Burnley), Jake O’Brien (Lyon), Robbie Brady (Preston North End), Festy Ebosele (Udinese), Ryan Manning.

Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jason Knight (Bristol City), Will Smallbone (Southampton). Jamie McGrath (Aberdeen), Callum O’Dowda (Cardiff City), Mark Sykes (Bristol City), Finn Azaz (Middlesbrough), Mikey Johnston (West Bromwich Albion).

Forwards: Evan Ferguson (Brighton and Hove Albion), Adam Idah (Celtic), Michael Obafemi (Millwall, on loan from Burnley), Sammie Szmodics (Blackburn Rovers), Chiedozie Ogbene (Luton Town).

Belgium squad

Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Matz Sels (Nottingham Forest), Arnaud Bodart (Standard Liege), Thomas Kaminski (Luton Town).

Defenders: Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), Thomas Meunier (Trabzonspor), Timothy Castagne (Fulham), Arthur Theate (Rennes), Wout Faes (Leicester City), Zeno Debast (Anderlecht), Koni De Winter (Genoa).

Midfielders: Youri Tielemans (Aston Villa), Charles De Ketelaere (Atalanta), Orel Mangala (Lyon), Amadou Onana (Everton), Aster Vranckx (Wolfsburg), Arthur Vermeeren (Atletico Madrid).

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce), Leandro Trossard (Arsenal), Jérémy Doku (Manchester City), Loïs Openda (RB Leipzig), Dodi Lukebakio (Sevilla), Johan Bakayoko (PSV).

What is the latest on John O’Shea?

John O’Shea is highly unlikely to be kept on as Ireland manager full-time as Marc Canham, the association’s director of football, is said to have a name for the job, but withholding it until early April due to “existing contractual obligations”.

O’Shea could be named as an assistant for the new manager and can leave the new regime in good shape should he win, or perform well, in the two high-profile home friendlies.

The interim team is O’Shea, along with Crystal Palace coach Paddy McCarthy, Glenn Whelan and Brian Kerr as technical adviser.

What to watch out for from an Ireland perspective?

The three new arrivals bring intrigue and a much needed eye for goals from midfield and defence. Szmodics will finally play for Ireland after doubts over his commitment with Hungary lurking. He is top scorer in the Championship and top scorer in the FA Cup – 21 in the Championship, six in the FA Cup – no mean feat and exactly what Ireland need from attacking midfield. Finn Azaz has nine goals from midfield for Plymouth and Middlesbrough, while Lyon’s Jake O’Brien has four goals from defence in Ligue 1.

The form player though, arguably, is Mikey Johnston, who is on fire since joining West Brom on loan from Celtic. He has ignited the Baggies’ promotion charge in the Championship with six goals in his last eight games, his graceful dribbling ever-apparent. Chiedozie Ogbene is also going well for Luton, which should take the responsibility off Evan Ferguson, who is going through a dry spell in front of goal for Brighton.

How is the Belgium team looking?

No De Bruyne, Lukaku or Courtois, and Eden Hazard retired last year, but the next generation is not bad either, and they are fourth in the world rankings for a reason. Jérémy Doku and Leandro Trossard stand out as wingers for Manchester City and Arsenal in Premier League title-chasing teams. Youri Tielemans is going well for Aston Villa, and once scored the winner in the FA Cup final, while Lukaku will not be overly missed by Domenico Tedesco given the form of exciting forward Loïs Openda, who has scored 23 goals in 36 games for RB Leipzig this season.

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