As pre-match press conferences go, the media outing on the eve of the Serbia game was all about the pre and very little about the match.

The pre on this occasion being the previous 12 months, the previous 15 games and of course the previous Saturday when Ireland disappointed in front of goal, failing to beat Azerbaijan.

The manager was left defending his position when asked about the media reports of his future being dependent on not losing to Serbia, and whether the players' confidence was as healthy it should be.

Kenny, to his credit, was fairly emphatic about his time in the job and felt that the team has improved overall since taking over.

He also said that he believes that he has the support of the general public, which was noticeable when he went out for a jog through the city with his management staff earlier in the week.

When the topic of the actual game eventually came up, the manager admitted that it was an intriguing battle in prospect between two teams who will be looking to play front-foot football throughout.

The first meeting between the two sides was a five-goal thriller in Belgrade, where Ireland scored first through an Alan Browne header.

And while the final score, 3-2 in the hosts' favour, may sound a little closer than it actually was, as Serbia dominated midway through the second half to secure a two-goal cushion, Ireland almost got something out of the game as the home side eased down through the gears.

Serbia have gone from strength to strength since that opening World Cup qualifier and remain unbeaten after four games with ten points following victories over Azerbaijan and Luxembourg and a credible 2-2 draw at home to Portugal.

As a result, Dragan Stojkovic’s side will come to Dublin looking to maintain that form and take all three points as they strive to squeeze Portugal out of that automatic World Cup spot.

Serbia play an exciting brand of football with a wealth of attacking options, and possess the near-perfect combination of stylish playmaker Dusan Tadic combined with talisman striker Aleksandar Mitrovic who has scored a remarkable 41 goals for his country in his last 46 appearances.

Two of those goals proved the difference between the two teams in Belgrade last March as the Fulham striker was sprung off the bench midway through the second half and within 12 minutes had first lobbed Mark Travers before soaring to score a trademark header to put the game beyond the Irish.

Mitrovic picked up a knock during Saturday’s win over Luxembourg, however, reports suggest that the big striker will be fit to start tonight.

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic adds further quality to the attacking style of Serbia, the Lazio midfielder is known as the Serbian Paul Pogba, which gives an idea of the type of play he brings to the side.

There have also been comparisons to Zinedine Zidane as he is the complete midfield player, while it was reported that the France World Cup winner tried to take the Serbian to Real Madrid last year.

"I see myself more of a Yaya Toure," he retorted when asked about the Zidane comparison.

Elsewhere, wingers Filip Kostic and Darko Lazovic offer a real threat on the flanks, allowing the front three and central two to wreak havoc in attack.

Serbia also have, perhaps, one of the most expensive benches in European football as Dusan Vlahovic and Luka Jovic are unlikely to make the starting XI.

Real Madrid are reported to have paid €60m for Jovic in 2019, while Fiorentina’s Vlahovic is believed to be a €70m target of Manchester City.

Ireland can take heart, however, by the fact that Serbia’s gung-ho approach will naturally leave gaping holes in their defence, and provided they can work the ball into the opposition final third and get numbers forward, the chances should present themselves.

Serbia tend to maintain their attack even when they are leading in a game such is the confidence in their formation where it is deemed the best form of defence.

The Ireland XI that plays their third competitive game in a week remains to be seen, as the manager has previously admitted that some members of the squad will struggle with the triple-header international window format.

Seamus Coleman has been ruled out through injury, having picked up a hamstring issue in the latter stages of the Azerbaijan game, while Dara O’Shea and Nathan Collins went back to their clubs ahead of Saturday’s encounter.

One thing that has become apparent over the course of the World Cup campaign is that Ireland look quite comfortable employing a back three, and the return to form of Shane Duffy has really added an extra dimension to the defence, playing alongside the reliable John Egan.

Dara O’Shea had come to claim that third berth, while Coleman filled in on Saturday, so that leaves the manager with a dilemma ahead of kick-off, however, he must be tempted to start Andrew Omobamidele following his composed performance in Portugal, having come on early in the game.

Matt Doherty will surely fill the right wing-back role, and while James McClean ran the left line on Saturday, there could be an argument to hand Ryan Manning a start, or take a look at late call-up Liam Scales, who has been playing there all season for Shamrock Rovers before signing for Celtic.

Josh Cullen is possibly one of the first names on the team-sheet this week and will surely anchor the midfield. Kenny will likely revert to a three-man unit to help out against the formidable Serbs.

Jeff Hendrick, Jamie McGrath and Jayson Mollumby have all played in the middle of the park throughout the window, while Conor Hourihane came off the bench on Saturday.

Fellow substitute Alan Browne is also an option to play a role tonight and enjoyed a great game in green in the reverse fixture when he opened the scoring.

Adam Idah is another who looks a certainty to start at this stage and Kenny will surely want Callum Robinson to have an impact as he was another who impressed in Belgrade and looked sharp when he came off the bench on Saturday having recovered from Covid.

Aaron Connolly and Troy Parrott have yet to show their best throughout this past week, however, both will surely be primed to come into the attack should Ireland need goals in the second half.

James Collins did not get a lot of time to make an impact against Azerbaijan, but he did give Ireland some shape amidst the all-out assault on the Azerbaijan back-line during those late stages.

At this stage of Kenny’s tenure, there have been enough moments to suggest that when it all comes together, Ireland will be more than a match for most and they can certainly cause Serbia problems tonight.

Azerbaijan’s goal on Saturday was concerning, however, as seasoned players made some basic errors of judgement and lapsed in concentration, while the panicked approach for the second half really lacked composure and was crying out for someone to put their foot on the ball.

Whether or not Kenny’s future depends on the outcome of tonight’s game remains to be seen, however there is a growing acceptance that something needs to go right for this emerging Ireland side sooner rather than later.

Avoiding defeat to a high-flying Serbia side would prove a very good step in the right direction, however, unless three points are secured, there will follow the inevitable clamour, which will set the narrative for another month, until the next international fixture in October.

Follow the Republic of Ireland v Serbia via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player or listen to radio commentary on RTÉ 2fm's Game On.

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