UEFA NATIONS LEAGUE GROUP B1
Republic of Ireland v Armenia, Aviva Stadium, 7:45pm.
Live coverage of all the build-up and match action from the Aviva Stadium from 7pm on RTÉ2. Streaming live online on RTÉ Player. Commentary from Des Curran and Stephen Kelly.
Live RTÉ 2fm commentary on an extended Game On.
We'll have a live match tracker on rte.ie/sport, the RTÉ News app, as well as updates and goals on RTÉ Soccer Twitter and RTÉ Sport Facebook.
Mainly dry with spells of sunshine and just a few showers possible. Feeling cool with highest temperatures of 13 or 14 degrees in moderate to fresh northwesterly winds.
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Chance to finish on a high
After the comedown of Saturday's defeat in Glasgow, tomorrow evening's game presents a chance for Stephen Kenny's Ireland to finish their Nations League campaign on a high.
The result against tonight's opponents Armenia at the start of June went a long way towards killing off the team's promotion chances before the competition really got going.
But it's the four points from a possible 12 against Ukraine and Scotland that mean Ireland will head to Dublin 4 knowing that they could still be relegated down to Group C. The first part of the mission therefore is to avoid defeat.
Kenny to mix things up
Josh Cullen is suspended for the game, but other than that Kenny has a full squad to choose from. His tactics saw his players expending a lot of energy at Hampden Park on Saturday, and the manager hinted earlier that he'll be making more than just one change.
"We are considering that [freshening up the team]," he said at Monday's press conference.
"We will have one or two changes, I would say, but not radical. I think the team played well on Saturday."
Matt Doherty spoke ahead of the Scotland game about his feeling that he was fit enough to start both games, but he looked like his lack of game time at club level was catching up with him in the second half on Saturday.
At the other end Troy Parrott scored a brilliant goal, which was then ruled out for an obvious offside call, but he really fluffed his lines when put in by Obafemi in the second half. The 20-year-old Dubliner hasn't scored for Preston since early August.
Between filling in for Cullen, and shaking things up around the park, any one of Jeff Hendrick, Conor Hourihane, Seamus Coleman, Alan Browne, Chiedozie Ogbene, Callum Robinson or Shane Duffy - once the first name on any Ireland team sheet - might see game time from the start.
A big crowd expects
Undoubtedly though there will be a sense of wanting to put right that result in Yerevan, particularly when you look at Armenia's results against the other two teams in the group. They lost both of their games Scotland and Ukraine, scoring one goal, and conceding 14.
The qualification for Euro 2024 starts in March, but another defeat against the world's 92nd ranked side would unquestionably lead to pressure once again coming on the manager. A loss though is surely unthinkable at this stage ahead of the draw for that upcoming qualifying campaign on Sunday week.
Kenny has dropped figures in the mid-40,000s for ticket sales for the game in press conferences over the last few days, and those supporters will travel in expectation of a victory, and by a couple of goals, at least.
The visitors showed back in June that they know how to frustrate Ireland. Eduard Spertsyan, who returns from suspension, got the winner with a brilliant strike and the return of the Krasnodar clubman will be a boost for manager Joaquin Caparros.
Of the 11 who started in the heavy defeat to Ukraine on Saturday afternoon, five play in the VBET Armenian Premier League, five ply their trade in top flights around Europe - Tigran Barseghyan (Slovakia), Khoren Bayramyan (Russia), Vahan Bichakhchyan (Poland), Andre Calisir (Denmark) and Hovhannes Hambardzumyan (Cyprus) - while Lucas Zelarayan plays in the MLS with Columbus Crew.
Somewhat like the Ireland squad, those playing in top tiers outside the Armenian national league tend to be rotation players with their clubs, rather than automatic starters.
Time running out before Euro qualifiers
With 24 teams heading to Germany in just under two years' time, players will have just this game, and the upcoming friendlies against Norway and Malta in November, to show what they can do in the green jersey.
The latter game takes place at the Centenary Stadium in Ta' Qali, just a few hours before Qatar face Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor in the opening game of the World Cup. If ever there was a pair of fixtures to show where Ireland are in the pecking order of world soccer, those two might be that pair.
'I had my doubts... but I think what's done has been the right thing, I think this team is growing underneath him' - Liam Brady was enthused by the Irish performance and the directions things are taking despite the loss in Hampden #SCOIRL #COYBIG #NationsLeague pic.twitter.com/DoPb1ORbGF— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) September 24, 2022
To use a managerial chiché, we are where we are, but Stephen Kenny will know that he has to qualify for the Euros to keep his job.
Although we don't yet know who we will face in next year's qualifiers, which will run between March and November, the Kenny reign thus far has been defined by the blooding of new players, a change in the style of play, and a period of transition.
There have been setbacks, from the failure to get through the Euro 2020 play-off very early in his time in charge, to two disheartening defeats to relative minnows Luxembourg and Armenia.
But there has undoubtedly been progress as well. That can't be lost because of the defeat in Hampden and it'll be up to Kenny now to get a performance out his players tomorrow, and to put the teething era of his reign in the rearview mirror.
Follow the Republic of Ireland v Armenia on Tuesday (kick-off 7.45pm) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, or watch live on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player