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Youri Tielemans will be one of Belgium’s most experienced players in their clash with Ireland
Free football tips, best bets and analysis for the international friendly match between Ireland and Belgium on Saturday.
where to watch
Sky Sports Premier League, 5 p.m. Saturday
Belgium win and both teams to score
1pt 3-1 general
First-choice goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu is ill while Darragh Lenihan and Enda Stevens are injured.
No player with 50 caps or more has been selected for this squad meaning Thibaut Courtois, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku are out.
Ireland’s 1-0 loss to Luxembourg in March last year marked a low point in Stephen Kenny’s tenure as manager, but since then the Boys in Green have only lost just once in ten games, conceding twice in the last five minutes against Portugal.
However, their improved performances were not enough to seriously challenge their World Cup qualifying group, and their long-term goal now turns to qualifying for Euros 2024.
Perhaps more importantly, Ireland appear to have found their shooting shoes, scoring ten times in their last four games. Kenny’s men have also kept four clean sheets in those games, so welcome Belgium with renewed optimism about their direction of travel.
Belgium are top of the Fifa rankings and have qualified comfortably for Qatar, which is almost certainly the last major tournament of their golden generation after being knocked out of Euro 2020 in the quarter-finals by eventual winners, the Italy.
Looking to the future, Roberto Martinez imposed a rule on his team for this friendly match and the following match against Burkina Faso excluding any player with 50 caps or more.
That means Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard are out while Martinez takes a look at his less experienced players.
Ireland are also likely to use this game as an opportunity to test youngsters such as Jayson Molumby, Jason Knight and Troy Parrott against a top side.
With the home side’s renewed optimism and improving goalscoring record, Kenny’s men are expected to be on the scoresheet against a Belgium backline in which only two players have ten or more caps.
Despite their inexperience, Martinez still has a wealth of attacking options to choose from and the top-ranked team in the world could possibly prove too strong.
Ireland have scored ten times in their last four games
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FIRST PUBLICATION AT 2:16 PM, MARCH 25, 2022