Ireland’s Aaron Connolly to start against Switzerland

Euro 2020 qualifier goes ahead after pitch inspection in Geneva

 

Aaron Connolly gets his first start for the Irish senior team in Geneva where Mick McCarthy has made three changes for the potentially decisive European Championship qualifier against Switzerland.

McCarthy has opted to rework the formation to with Ireland set to start using a 3-5-2 formation. If the visitors win the game, they will qualify for Euro 2020.

Enda Stevens returns from suspension and Alan Browne comes into central midfield as Matt Doherty, Conor Hourihane and Callum Robinson all drop to the bench.

The inclusion of Connolly will meet with widespread approval amongst supporters after the 19-year-old’s performance for Brighton a little over a week ago when he scored twice in a 3-0 win and the positive impact he made late on in Tbilisi. Replacing Hourihane with Browne looks a bigger call with the Aston Villa midfielder’s delivery at set pieces having become a big part of Ireland’s game-plan over the course of this campaign.

That said, his was one of many poor performances on Saturday and a couple of others have been fortunate enough to retain their places. Stevens will start as back of a three at the back with Seamus Coleman and James McClean playing as wing backs. James Collins will partner Connolly in attack.

The Swiss, meanwhile, are unchanged for the game after having played well but lost in Denmark. There had been a suggestion that Kevin Mbabu might replace Stephan Lichtsteiner who looked particularly tired in Copenhagen but manager Vladimir Petkovic has kept faith with his skipper.

The game was subject to a pitch inspection early in the evening due to heavy rain on an already heavy surface. There was water clearly visible in parts of the surface, most obviously around one of the penalty areas, during the inspection but the Polish official decided that it was playable.

Switzerland: Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach); Elvedi (Borussia Monchengladbach), Schär (Newcastle United), Akanji (Borussia Dortmund); Mbabu (Wolfsbug), Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach), Xhaka (Arsenal), Embolo (Borussia Monchengladbach), Rodriguez (Milan); Mehmedi (Wolfsburg), Seferovic (Benfica).

Republic of Ireland: Randolph (Middlesbrough; Egan (Sheffield United), Duffy (Brighton), Stevens (Sheffield United); Coleman (Everton), Hendrick (Burnley), Whelan (Hearts), Browne (Preston), McClean (Stoke City); Collins (Luton Town), Connolly (Brighton).

Referee: S Marciniak (Poland).

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