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The Irish Starting XI That Should Face Italy And The One That Probably Will

The Irish Starting XI That Should Face Italy And The One That Probably Will
By Gary Reilly
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You're probably not going to like it but before the blood pressure starts to rise, it's worth reminding yourself that it's not confirmed yet. The talk would suggest that it's likely but that's not to say that Martin O'Neill won't change his mind between now and six o'clock on Wednesday.

Garry Doyle in the Times is today reporting that, understandably enough, the Ireland boss is looking to make quite a few changes to his side from the one that was resoundingly turned over against Belgium. While the fact that at least four changes have been mooted will come as no surprise, the identity of those changes is rather less palatable.

Predicted Irish starting XI to face Italy

As you may have expected, that starting XI has been taking a hell of a slating on the usual channels this morning. It will be horrible to see Wes dropped to the bench but it was never likely that O'Neill would start him in three straight games. That was a change we were just always going to have to accept and the Belgium performance will have done little to convince the Ireland manager otherwise.

It's that name at the top of the field that will have most fans scratching their heads. Jon Walters isn't fit enough to start, that much seems clear. That means that if Shane Long needs a rest, it's either Murphy or Keane. Robbie was never going to be an option to start which means that it's down to the Ipswich man to lead the line. Cue bedlam.

Granted, that may be going a bit far but there won't be too many Ireland fans delighted to see Murphy to start in place of Long. Elsewhere, Keogh looks set to come in for Clark, while McCarthy is likely to miss out with Stephen Quinn coming in.

But does O'Neill have any choice?

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In the Long or Murphy argument, it's difficult to make any real suggestion as to what the Ipswich man adds. He's a 'presence' but unless Long is completely dead on his feet after Saturday, surely you'd have to give the Tipperary man the first half at the very least to prove that he has enough in the tank to make an impact.

Further back, if we're to accept the given wisdom that Hoolahan really doesn't have the legs for three games in little over a week, then perhaps it's time to refresh the midfield almost entirely. McClean, Quinn and Meyler all to come in with the heat coming off McCarthy.

And in defence, it's time for Shane Duffy.

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'Preferred' Irish starting XI to face Italy

According to Gazetta dello Sport, the Italian team has already been named with Antonio Conte sticking to his promise to rest the vast majority of his first choice lineup. Just Barzagli and Florenzi remain from the 1-0 win over Sweden and Ireland fans will no doubt take heart that the likes of Chiellini and Buffon look set to miss out.

Although Conte is likely to stick with his preferred three at the back formation, the projected line-up could just as easily be shifted to 4-4-2 with De Sciglio reverting to his preferred right back position and Florenzi shifting out wide.

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That Italy lineup will give Ireland fans hope. That's certainly not a team that would lead you to suggest that it's impossible to take three points off them. And even if it is that predicted lineup that O'Neill turns to at the top of this page, we're not going to lose hope. With the state of that pitch in Lille, at the very least, it's going to be a dog fight and if that's the way O'Neill is setting us up to play, then so be it.

It's a matter of taking three points and nothing else. If we do that, there won't be too many of us complaining about Daryl Murphy taking Shane Long's place up front.

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