The rollercoaster four-fixture summer series comes to a conclusion tonight in Lodz with Stephen Kenny's side looking to maintain the momentum gained from the impressive victory over Scotland on Saturday.

A disappointing start to the Nations League campaign, no doubt, as Ireland could not convert their dominance into goals in Yerevan, before getting pick-pocketed in Dublin four days later by tonight's opponents, with a goal from the touchline proving the difference.

Such was the build-up to the campaign, with ambitions of topping the group, and coming off the back of an eight-game unbeaten streak, the general deflation from those two defeats appeared to reset the default factory settings and put the focus firmly back on Kenny and whether he was the right man for the job.

Never a doubt, according to the manager, who backed up his self-belief and trust in the team with the excellent win over Scotland.

Kenny was quick to play it down though, saying that it wasn’t the perfect performance from what he described as "an emerging team", no doubt having the odd nightmare from those fiercely fallible goal-kick routines that just appear to heap pressure on the team for no good reason.

The Scotland performance might be the one that has allowed the manager to enjoy a bit of breathing space coming into the away game against the highest ranked side in the group, however, he will most likely be replaying the first game in Dublin in his mind as he looks to gain revenge from the narrow 1-0 defeat at the Aviva.

A "fluke" goal according to Kenny – the set-piece that beat everyone and hopped past Caoimhin Kelleher into the roof of the net – as the manager rued his side’s misfortune, losing a game without conceding a real chance throughout the match.

Kenny will now be looking to sign off on the right note going into the summer break, as his side takes on the group leaders, who have maximum points from their two games.

Darragh Lenihan could be selected in the three-man defence

Ukraine have injury and illness issues going into the game yet should be closer to their preferred starting XI compared to the team that played in Dublin.

Ireland, likewise, look set to field a completely different side having made five changes for the Scotland game with suspensions and other issues ruling out more players.

Shane Duffy is banned for the game, while playing partner John Egan will miss out as he awaits the birth of his child, while there are also major doubts over the fitness of Michael Obafemi, who went off after scoring the third goal against Scotland.

As a result, Ireland will be playing with a new-look three at the back, with Nathan Collins set to be joined by Dara O’Shea and most likely Darragh Lenihan.

On a positive note, the manager has plenty of options to choose from in that department with Enda Stevens or Ryan Manning easily able to slot in on the left of that trio, while Jimmy Dunne has also been added to bolster the defensive department.

But the big call for the manager going into this game will be his midfield selection and whether he reverts to a solid two-man unit or sticks with the three, which worked so well on Saturday with Jason Knight playing in a deeper role.

The emphasis was evident when it came to getting the ball back when out of possession against the Scots, which was a direct result of chasing for long periods against the slick Ukraine ball-players.

Fatigue and fitness will play their part when it comes to filling those positions, whether Josh Cullen can make it four from four in a 10-day period, or if the manager wants to get Jeff Hendrick back involved.

If anything, Hendrick could work better in a three-man unit playing the advanced role in front of Cullen and Jayson Molumby, who must keep his place following his excellent outing against Scotland, while it could be a straight choice between the calm, composed Hendrick or the highly energetic Jason Knight, who offers more when out of possession and can also drive the team forward.

As mentioned, Obafemi is struggling with a groin injury and the manager all but ruled him out of starting tonight’s game, however, while the player travelled with the squad he was not included in the matchday squad released this morning.

"We think that Michael will miss out with his groin injury," said Kenny. "In relation to Michael, it’s not my business to tell the opposition manager who’s fit and who isn’t fit. I would say… he’s come off injured on Sunday. It’s too quick a turnaround."

Michael Obafemi did not train with the team on the eve of the game

The manager opted for a three-man unit for the opening two games with Callum Robinson and Chiedozie Ogbene seemingly first choice in that area, however, neither player delivered in the final third and Kenny is unlikely to change a winning formula for the game in Lodz.

But who will start alongside Parrott? It is probably the biggest decision that the manager will have to make, with several attacking options to choose from.

Kenny spoke hopefully about Ogbene having recovered well from an impact injury and would like him to be involved at some stage, but if he is looking to maintain the same approach and lead with an out and out striker, it appears that Scott Hogan could be the man for the job.

Hogan did well when he came on for Obafemi on Saturday and was unlucky not to add a fourth to the scoreline as a result of goal-line technology not being available at the Aviva; his natural play would also complement Parrott working as a two up front.

Will Scott Hogan lead the line with Troy Parrott?

However, with all the selection issues to consider, once the game kicks off, it will become abundantly clear that it is not Scotland that Ireland are playing against, and the team will have to probably work even harder off the ball such is the technical proficiency of the Ukraine players.

And while Ukraine played the ball at will around the Ireland midfield throughout the game in Dublin, the home defence held firm and gave away little in way of chances on goal.

More of the same is what is needed for Kenny’s side to have any chance of getting a result in Lodz tonight with no room for comedy caper goalkick routines, which could put Ireland on the back foot and chasing the game.

The extra man in midfield will certainly help Ireland with energetic performances likely to come again from the likes of Molumby, Knight and others, that will help Kenny’s side to get back on the ball.

The manager was critical of his side’s use of the ball in the first game, lamenting the fact that the team went too direct too often, instead of patiently building from the back.

A patient approach and improved possession will level matters in this intriguing contest and it may just come down to who has more left in the tank, as Ireland play their fourth in 10 games, while Ukraine will make it five in 13.

A competitive draw would be a good return for the Irish side after their slow start to the campaign, and coming to the end of a five-game run, coupled with the heartbreak of missing out on the World Cup, it would probably suit Ukraine as well going into the September games on top of the group.


Follow Italy U21s v Republic of Ireland U21s (Tuesday, 4.30pm) via our live blog on rte.ie/sport or on the RTÉ News app. Watch live coverage on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player commencing at 4pm


Follow Ukraine v Republic of Ireland (Tuesday, 7.45pm) via our live blog on rte.ie/sport or on the RTÉ News app. Live radio commentary on an extended Game On on RTÉ 2fm. Watch live coverage on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player commencing at 7pm.

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