The Aviva Stadium, Monday 18 November, 7.45pm


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Frost and fog will slowly lift on Monday morning and give way to a sunny, if chilly, November afternoon. With highest temperatures 4 to 8°C, it will be cold as kick-off approaches so wrap up if you're heading for Lansdowne Road.

Another mammoth showdown with a familiar foe

Here we go again. It's Ireland v Denmark in a shootout for a place in a major tournament.

It's almost exactly two years since we were in this very scenario. Then, Age Hareide's men came to Lansdowne Road and left with a ticket to the World Cup in Russia thanks to a devastating 5-1 win. 

The landscape is a little different this time around.

That awful November night was the beginning of the end for Martin O'Neill, though he managed to limp on for a full year before making his exit following a dour Nations League campaign.

Mick McCarthy was the safe pair of hands entrusted with trying to steer Ireland to Euro 2020 qualification and he is now 90 minutes from doing just that. 

Their last clash ended 1-1 in Copenhagen back in June, Ireland snatching a point thanks to a late Shane Duffy header and the Danes oddly view the Boys in Green as something of a bogey team; or at least a pebble in their shoe. 

It's inevitable that two teams that are about to face each other for the fifth time in 24 months aren't hugely enthused to do it all again though Hareide's men have been suspiciously generous in their praise for their Irish counterparts in the run-up to Monday night's battle.

"We hate to play Ireland at the moment, we've played them so much recently," was the verdict of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Thomas Delaney, who memorably compared trying to break down O'Neill's Ireland to "opening a can of baked beans with your bare hands" before the World Cup play-off. 

"I don't fear Ireland, but I have a great respect. I know it's going to be a difficult game. It's going to be a great atmosphere and Ireland are a team who play with their hearts on their sleeve. It's a cliche but it's going to be a war. They are going to bring everything."

Boss Hareide also went on something of a charm offensive on Sunday evening. "Our players respect Ireland," he said. "I know they have a big heart. I played with Irish players at Man City and Norwich. Our players say they don't like to play Ireland but that is a sign of respect." 

Meanwhile the mood in the Irish camp is bullish.

"This is where we want to be, this is why we're here, this is why we show up and on nights like this it’s what everyone wants – to play for Ireland and to play for Ireland in a tournament," declared Glenn Whelan.

"They've got some top players but for us, we’re at home, we’ve got a chance to qualify so we’ve got to go and give our fans something to shout about and get them behind us."

How will they shape up?

Ireland have had mixed news on the injury front over the last week.

Aaron Connolly was ruled out last Monday due to a groin injury he sustained with Brighton against Manchester United, while Blackburn Rovers full-back Derrick Williams strained his calf in Thursday's friendly win over New Zealand. 

The good news is that David McGoldrick is fit and ready to start after a period on the sidelines and keeper Daren Randolph - who returned to action with Middlesbrough last weekend following a thigh problem - is also in good shape. 

Seamus Coleman is suspended so Matt Doherty will get the nod at right-back, with John Egan and Shane Duffy - who captains the side - continuing their recently formed centre-back pairing. Enda Stevens will slot in on the left.

Jack Byrne, Alan Browne and Josh Cullen all did well against New Zealand but it would be a shock if any of them broke up McCarthy's usual trio of Glenn Whelan, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Hourihane. McGoldrick will lead the line, so it's really only on the flanks where there's some question marks. With James McClean set to stay left, Callum Robinson and Sean Maguire could be jostling for the right-sided berth.

Denmark rattled six past Gibraltar on Friday night and are still unbeaten in the group.

They're tough to score against - five clean sheets in their last five games is testament to that, with the crazy 3-3 draw against Switzerland early in the campaign an anomaly.

In fact, Denmark have only lost one game in their last 33. That defeat, to Slovakia, came in a friendly a year ago in which they fielded a team of lower league and futsal players due to a player strike following a row over commercial rights. 

They are a seriously stubborn unit. 

The Danes came out of that 6-0 hammering of Gibraltar with no fresh injury worries. Christian Eriksen, who scored twice, looked worryingly on song too.

The supremely talented Spurs playmaker has been out of sorts this campaign but he ran riot in the play-off clash two years ago when a shambolic home rearguard gave him the freedom of the pitch.

That simply cannot be allowed to happen again. 

What happens if we make it?

Well, aside from 40-odd thousand Irish fans trying to squeeze into Coppers, we'll be glued to the Euro 2020 group draw, which takes place in Bucharest on 30 November.

The 24 teams who qualify will be drawn into six groups of four, with the top two in each group and four best third-placed teams moving on to the knockout stages.

This tournament will be the first to be played across multiple countries. Twelve nations - including Ireland - will host games. If McCarthy's men make it they'll be drawn in Group E, playing two matches in Dublin and one in Bilbao (see the full list of venues and corresponding groups below).

That's the good news. The bad news is we'd be in the same group as Spain.

  • Group A: Stadio Olimpico (Rome) and Olympic Stadium (Baku)
  • Group B: Parken Stadium (Copenhagen) and Krestovsky Stadium (St Petersburg)
  • Group C: Johan Cruyff Arena (Amsterdam) and Arena Nationala (Bucharest)
  • Group D: Wembley (London) and Hampden Park (Glasgow)
  • Group E: San Mames (Bilbao) and the Aviva Stadium (Dublin)
  • Group F: Puskas Arena (Budapest) and the Allianz Arena (Munich)

There is a safety net. Sweden's 2-0 win Bucharest sealed their ticket to the finals and also ensured there is now no scenario in which Ireland will not go into the March play-offs if they don't get the win required in Dublin.

Ireland would then face a standalone semi-final - most likely away from home based on their current ranking - and a final to qualify. The draw for those games takes place in Nyon on Friday. 

We're all hoping we'll have zero interest in it.

Follow Republic of Ireland v Denmark with our live blog on RTÉ Sport Online or the RTÉ News Now App, watch live on RTÉ2 from 7pm or listen live on RTÉ 2fm's Game On