VENUE

Wednesday 14 October, Olympiastadion, Helsinki 5pm

TV

Sky Sports Football

ONLINE

Liveblog on RTÉ.ie and RTÉ News Now app from 4.30pm

WEATHER

A calm, cool day is in store in Helsinki. Sunny with the chance of the odd shower, temperatures should be around ten degrees by kick-off.

Bring your boots, you might get a game

So who's left out there? The Republic of Ireland squad has been decimated by Covid-19 and the confusion surrounding positives tests, false positives and close contacts.

As things stand, Stephen Kenny continues to be without the services of John Egan, Callum Robinson, Callum O'Dowda, Alan Browne and Derrick Williams after they all missed Sunday’s 0-0 draw with Wales.  

David McGoldrick is also out with an adductor muscle injury.

Aaron Connolly is back and available for selection again, having missed games with Slovakia and Wales games while Adam Idah - who missed the Slovakia game - had already returned to the squad for that clash with the Welsh.

Meanwhile, Dara O'Shea, Jason Knight, Ryan Manning and Ronan Curtis have all been drafted into Kenny’s squad for the trip the Helsinki.

Still with us? Well there’s been another positive Covid-19 test in the Ireland camp and an unnamed player will now miss the clash with Finland after a third test confirmed that he had contracted the coronavirus.

The withdrawal of the unnamed player followed a dramatic day when ge first tested positive for the coronavirus but was then negative in a second test. It seems like it’s best two out three.

The unnamed player must isolate for ten days and no replacements have been called up to the squad.

Oh, and James McClean is suspended after picking up a particularly daft red card against Wales.

Where will the goals come from?

Stephen Kenny is still in the fledging stages of his international management career but with four games under his belt and just one goal scored, it’s clear that he has a big problem to deal with.

Goals have become very difficult to come by for Ireland and it’s not immediately clear just how the manager is going to change that.

Having Aaron Connolly available might help. It appeared that Kenny had originally hoped to play a front three of Connolly, David McGoldrick and Callum Robinson against Slovakia but was forced into a frustrating late change.

Connolly won’t be some magic panacea but the Brighton attacker has a decent eye for goal and can offer the kind of unpredictability and creativity that Ireland have been lacking in the last week.

More worrying for Kenny is the fact that Robinson and McGoldrick are both out now and that may force the Ireland boss into a change of systems, although we could conceivably see him continue with a front three, with Shane Long leading the line.

Daryl Horgan, who impressed off the bench against Wales on Sunday, may have played himself into contention and could start in place of Robinson. The Wycombe player is hoping for a slice of luck to help kickstart Ireland in front of goal.

"Maybe on Wednesday someone will just hit someone on the arse and it goes in, and it just goes from there," he said.

"It’s easier said than done to fix it because the rest of it is very good and you can see what the manager is putting in place, and the way he wants us to play, and we are creating chances. Now it is just the last tiny detail, but the most important detail."

Reasons to be cheerful

While scoring goals has become a problem for Ireland the good news is that they aren’t conceding.

Clean sheets against Wales and Slovakia tell their own story and so does the fact that Ireland rarely looked like conceding in either of those games.

Shane Duffy is quickly becoming one of the more important and dependable members of Kenny’s squad and he’s certain to start at the heart of defence again, although just who will line up alongside him remains uncertain.

Kevin Long is a doubt with an eye injury that saw him come off in the first half against Wales. That injury forced the hand of Kenny who had to move Matt Doherty into the centre, but the Tottenham man impressed as a makeshift centre-back and may get another run out there.

So far, Doherty has been unable to replicate his swash-buckling, attacking full-back club form on the international stage and if Long is unavailable, Cyrus Christie could again feature at full-back with Doherty in the centre.

It’s not just in defence that there’s a new found solidity for Ireland. Although things haven’t clicked in the final third just yet, Ireland are passing and moving the ball with real intent and purpose under Kenny.

The new Ireland manager is getting joy in imparting his new possession-based approach and the fact that they had more chances on goal and more possession against Wales, despite the sending-off of McClean, bodes well for the future.

What about Finland?

Finland have already got the better of Ireland this year, edging to a 1-0 victory at the Aviva Stadium at the start of September, courtesy of Fredrik Jensen's second-half goal.

The Finns were deserved winners on the day and have a tidy, well-drilled team with some sprinklings of real quality throughout their squad.

They come into the game on the back on an impressive 2-0 victory over Bulgaria at the weekend and have conceded just once in this Nations League campaign.

Victory over Ireland could see them leapfrog Wales at the top of the table and strengthen their case from promotion to League A.

With no Covid-19 crisis in their camp and no reported injuries from the victory over Bulgaria, Finland manager Markku Kanerva looks likely to stick with the majority of the side that beat the Bulgarians.

Daniel O'Shaughnessy, who could be lining out for Stephen Kenny's side had he opted to play for Ireland rather that the Finns, again looks set to start in defence, while Norwich's Teemu Pukki will be the man the Irish defence have to be most concerned about. 

Jensen, who scored the winner against Ireland at the Aviva, came off the bench against Bulgaria and scored and his performance at the weekend may be enough for him to force his way into the starting line-up, at the expense of Joel Pohjanpalo.

Verdict

While there are encouraging signs and reasons to be optimistic about the Kenny era, it's still hard to see just where Ireland are going to find their goals from. The absence of Robinson and McGoldrick is a blow and while there is a new-found solidity to Ireland, it looks like we're going to be in for another goalless game.

Prediction: Finland 0-0 Ireland

Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Darren Randolph (West Ham United), Caoimhin Kelleher (Liverpool), Mark Travers (Bournemouth).

Defenders: Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Enda Stevens (Sheffield United), Shane Duffy (Celtic, on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion), Kevin Long (Burnley), Cyrus Christie (Nottingham Forest, on loan from Fulham), Dara O'Shea (West Bromwich Albion).

Midfielders: Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), James McCarthy (Crystal Palace), Jeff Hendrick (Newcastle United), Jayson Molumby (Brighton & Hove Albion), Jack Byrne (Shamrock Rovers), Robbie Brady (Burnley), Josh Cullen (Anderlecht), Jason Knight (Derby County), Ryan Manning (Queens Park Rangers).

Forwards: Aaron Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion), Daryl Horgan (Wycombe Wanderers), Sean Maguire (Preston North End), Shane Long (Southampton), Adam Idah (Norwich City), Ronan Curtis (Portsmouth).