REPUBLIC OF IRELAND v PORTUGAL

Thursday 11 October, Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm

TV

Darragh Maloney is joined by Liam Brady and Richie Sadlier for live coverage from the Aviva Stadium.

ONLINE

Live blog on RTÉ.ie and the RTÉ News Now app from 7pm.

RADIO

Live commentary on RTÉ 2fm's Game On.

ATTENDANCE

The Aviva Stadium attendance will be a sold out 50,000. It's a rare occasion for the Irish team to sell out the stadium. With 25,000 attending a friendly against Qatar, there is undoubtedly additional interest in the team under Stephen Kenny. The audience is captured and keeping them will be the goal.

WEATHER

It will be a wet evening at Aviva Stadium with rain forecast and also a strong wind.

A BIG GAME BUT FOR WHICH TEAM?

To those looking outside of Ireland, the only important aspect of this game is Portugal trying to move ahead of Serbia in the race for automatic qualification to the World Cup.

With a 2-2 draw in Serbia, two draws are likely to be enough for the Portuguese in this and the crunch deciding game.

And again, the rest of Europe may wonder why there will be a buoyant crowd of 50,000 and why the Irish team will be so pumped up for the game.

The home side will be looking to move ahead in the race for third spot in the group - which will help down the track - but in reality all roads lead to the qualification for Euro 2024 and the Nations League games with it.

Cristiano Ronaldo was the subject of attention in the first game

Portugal will need to be mindful that their greater test is to come on Sunday when the group is decided against Serbia.

There will be no need to chase goals, or an emphatic victory, merely to be sure not to lose the game.

Ireland have little to lose and everything to gain. Cristiano Ronaldo and his team-mates have won every group game except that draw in Serbia. All the expectation is on the visiting team, or so you would think.

WHAT CAN IRELAND GAIN?

Since the real low points of the Kenny reign – the standout being the home loss to Luxembourg – Ireland's salvage mission has been on multiple fronts.

There was some treasure at the bottom. They could gain experience, build a base for a future starting XI, find goals in the team, they could lift morale which was so low and get the crowd onside. Most of all they could win.

That’s all been achieved in a relatively short space of time but at a level which should keep Ireland grounded. The surprising thing for many of the viewing public is just how enjoyable it had been.

The tedious debate over Kenny’s credentials was parked in the aftermath of the Azerbaijan and Qatar games. However, this game, for some, truly offers an insight into the project.

It’s a nice one for the manager to look forward to. This isn’t a make or break and Sunday in Luxembourg is a much more realistic bar to measure against.

The scenes at the Qatar matched showed a swell of support for Stephen Kenny

There will be partisan crowd behind the team on Thursday. He is walking and talking with a little more confidence – the type that comes with victories - and history suggest that only adds to the motivational tools he holds for players.

There is talk of revolution but what sobers such thoughts is the quality of the opposition. João Cancelo was man of the match in the Manchester derby last weekend, while Rúben Dias isn’t doing too badly either. Cristiano Ronaldo is trying to keep the red side of that city afloat.

Diogo Jota has become a first choice player at Liverpool. Ironically as a nation we see a lot more of these players than we do our own. It tells a story of what expectations should be. There is reason for hope.

BATTLE SCARS OF FARO HEAL OLD WOUNDS

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It was a hurtful moment for Ireland to ship two late goals but it was also the first signs that masterplans could bear fruit for Ireland.

It was Ronaldo's night but there were huge positives for Ireland. Gavin Bazunu had stopped Ronaldo earlier on. Andrew Omobamidele made his debut. Matt Doherty defied illness to put in a sensational individual performance.

So much is talked of the youth in Ireland's team but Kenny has brought those left in the shadows out to find their best form in a green shirt.

Doherty, the second coming of Shane Duffy and Callum Robinson on the goal trail have been the major positives. Kenny has stuck with Jeff Hendrick and his performance against Qatar spoke volumes about what influence the manager can have on players. There is belief in the Irish team, even after the manner of that loss in Portugal so expect no fear here.

WHAT TEAM CAN WE EXPECT?

Seamus Coleman returns from injury for this window and time will tell if he makes it back into team or if Doherty is used further up the pitch.

Chiedozie Ogbene impressed in the last friendly. He may be more suited to an impact role here. Adam Idah and Callum Robinson could form the attack with Jamie McGrath in behind. One of the front two will likely move to the wing when out of possession.

Chiedozie Ogbene is likely to be kept in reserve

Ogbene is most likely to come on after Idah has ran his race. The Portugal defence were vulnerable to the Irish attack on the break in Faro and the pace which the forwards can bring could be critical.

CAN THE UNTHINKABLE BE DONE?

It will require Portugal to have something of an off-day as they did in Faro. Cristiano Ronaldo endured a very frustrating evening until the closing minutes.

Both sides have reason to start the game with a bang but getting to half-time on level terms will be critical to Ireland as Portugal will be happy to see the game out if they move ahead.

The occasion will be a special one as a full crowd is welcomed back to the stadium and Kenny is talking up the impact they can have.

With no pressure on a result, Ireland can play off the crowd, and see where it takes them.