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Preview: Republic of Ireland vs. Belgium – prediction, team news, lineups



Sports Mole previews Saturday’s friendly clash between Republic of Ireland and Belgium, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Euro 2024-bound Belgium begin the build-up to this summer’s finals on Saturday, when they tackle the Republic of Ireland in Dublin.

While the Red Devils’ preparations for Germany will start taking shape at the Aviva Stadium, their ailing hosts are without a permanent manager and were well off the pace in qualifying.

Match preview

© Reuters

Stephen Kenny‘s departure after a three-and-a-half-year reign as Republic of Ireland boss came as little surprise last November, and his spell drew to a close with a suitably dismal home draw against New Zealand.

The Republic have won just two of their last nine games – both against Gibraltar – and they finished 12 points adrift of the top two in Group B of European Championship qualifying; their previous UEFA Nations League performance was not sufficient for a playoff place either.

Now starting the post-Kenny era, the Boys in Green will play a pair of friendlies on home soil, with Belgium providing a tough test at the weekend, before Switzerland arrive in Dublin three days later.

Following Kenny’s exit, former international defender John O’Shea is in interim charge, as the FAI’s forlorn search for a new manager goes on: after weeks of speculation, England Under-21 boss Lee Carsley turned down the opportunity to take the reins.

Former manager Brian Kerr will be part of O’Shea’s staff this month, when the priority is to tune the squad up for next season’s Nations League campaign.

After playing Portugal and Hungary in friendly fixtures just ahead of the Euros, England, Greece and Finland will be Ireland’s League B opponents starting from September.

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their fourth goal with Aster Vranckx on November 19, 2023© Reuters

By contrast, Belgium are firm fixtures in the Nations League’s top tier, and Saturday’s visitors are also among the dark horses for Euro 2024 glory.

Ahead of next week’s high-profile clash with England at Wembley, the Red Devils must face their Irish hosts for a 17th time since 1928 – following that first meeting, the Republic have come out on top four times; Belgium six.

A total of six stalemates includes the 2-2 draw when they last convened in 2022, but the Belgians’ current form suggests they can target victory this weekend.

After crashing out of the 2022 World Cup at its group stage, Belgium have started fresh under new coach Domenico Tedesco, and they booked a spot at the Euros by topping their qualifying group with six wins and two draws from eight matches.

Having already cruised through, Tedesco’s team played their final Group F fixture in November, when they crushed Azerbaijan 5-0 at King Baudouin Stadium, with Romelu Lukaku embellishing his stellar international record by bagging four goals before the break.

As Lukaku and co have been joined by fresh faces such as Jeremy Doku, Arthur Vermeeren and Johan Bakayoko, hopes are growing of finally bringing silverware back to Belgium – even the lauded ‘golden generation’ could not manage that feat, managing only several near misses.

Republic of Ireland form (all competitions):

Belgium form (all competitions):

Team News

Republic of Ireland's Gavin Bazunu pictured on March 30, 2021© Reuters

After replacing former number one Gavin Bazunu against New Zealand, Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher is expected to start for the Republic of Ireland on Saturday evening.

An old teammate of interim manager John O’Shea, 35-year-old Seamus Coleman is back in the Irish squad following injury, but Troy Parrott and Celtic defender Liam Scales have both had to withdraw. Under-21 players Joe Hodge and Andy Moran will therefore boost the hosts’ numbers after taking part in a Euros qualifier against San Marino on Friday.

Blackburn Rovers striker Sammie Szmodics may finally make his international debut: the Championship’s 21-goal top scorer has been called up twice before but pulled out on both occasions.

Meanwhile, captain Kevin De Bruyne headlines the list of stars unavailable to Belgium boss Domenico Tedesco.

The Manchester City midfielder is sidelined by a groin strain, while goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois recently suffered a major setback on his road to recovery from injury; all-time top scorer Romelu Lukaku will not feature this weekend but could play a part against England next Tuesday.

Charles De Ketelaere misses out, too, so either Lois Openda or Michy Batshuayi could start up front, with Matz Sels likely to deputise for Courtois between the posts.

Republic of Ireland possible starting lineup:
Kelleher; Coleman, Omobamidele, Collins, O’Shea, Brady; Ogbene, Cullen, Smallbone, Szmodics; Ferguson

Belgium possible starting lineup:
Sels; Castagne, Faes, De Winter, Theate; Tielemans, Vranckx; Bakayoko, Trossard, Doku; Openda

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We say: Republic of Ireland 1-2 Belgium

Belgium may be without some big-hitters, but their younger stars have started to shine since Qatar 2022 and they should maintain their momentum in Dublin. The Republic of Ireland are in disarray at the moment, so bridging the gap will surely prove beyond the Boys in Green.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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