Ireland may be not be playing for much on Thursday, but for Portugal this game is vital. It's very tight between themselves and Serbia at the top of the group. With an automatic qualifying spot for the World Cup on the line, a good result in these next two games are a high priority for Portugal.
Portugal Squad Update
Most of the regular big names are available for Fernando Santos. Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias and many other stars were named in the squad last week. One player who will miss out on the game Thursday is Bernardo Silva. The Manchester City winger missed out on training this week due to a muscle problem. He won't be travelling with the squad to Dublin with the Serbia game in mind. He joins the trio of João Mário, Anthony Lopes and Rafa Silva.
Another player who is unavailable is Nuno Mendes. The PSG left-back is suspended, meaning that João Cancelo will most likely take the left back spot he has starred in for Manchester City recently. That would also mean Manchester United's Diogo Dalot or Wolves' Nelson Semedo might get the start at right-back.
A booking for Rúben Dias,, João Palhinha, Renato Sanches, José Fonte, Diogo Jota or João Cancelo would mean they would miss out on the vital Serbia game, so Portugal may have to take a cautious approach defensively.
The group as it stands
At the moment Portugal are second in the group with a game in hand on Serbia. Second place in the group means they have to go into the play-offs while first place guarantees a spot in Qatar next year.
Portugal just need to not lose the next two games in order to qualify for the World Cup automatically. A win or draw against Ireland would mean that they'll leapfrog Serbia with their superior goal difference. They do face Serbia on Sunday and if they don't lose to Ireland, a draw will be enough to get to the World Cup. So it's fair to say there's a lot riding on the Ireland game for Ronaldo and co.