The Republic of Ireland travel to Poland on Sunday night knowing that they must beat their opponents, or secure a score draw of 2-2 or more, if they are to automatically qualify for Euro 2016.
Shane Long’s goal helped Martin O’Neill’s side to an impressive 1-0 win against Germany on Thursday, which has guaranteed them a play-off spot minimum no matter what happens in their final qualifier in Warsaw.
They are level on 18 points with the Poles in the standings, but they are below their opponents from Central Europe on goal difference until this fixture decides the overall head-to-head record.
The two sides drew 1-1 in Dublin in March, with Long scoring a late leveller, so a victory or a score draw of 2-2 or more would be enough for the Irish to book their trip to France.
Had it not been for Robert Lewandowski’s last-gasp equaliser for Poland in their 2-2 draw against Scotland, the visitors would have been in pole position going into Sunday’s clash.
The Irish defence will have to keep a very close eye on the Bayern Munich attacker, who is the top goalscorer in Euro 2016 qualifying with 12 goals in nine matches and the most in-form striker in world football right now.
O’Neill has been dealt a blow with the news that goalkeeper Shay Given has been ruled out after coming off against Germany with a knee injury, so Darren Randolph, who picked up a clean sheet and an assist for Long’s goal, should start between the sticks.
Long came on as a substitute to score the winner on Thursday, and the Southampton forward will be pushing for a start along with the captain, Robbie Keane, who wash;t used against the world champions.
James McClean and Glenn Whelan have returned from suspension, but O’Neill could stick with the same midfield that did so well against Joachim Low.
The hosts’ coach, Adam Nawalka was hoping to name an unchanged line-up, but attacker Arkadiusz Milik is doubt with a hip problem.
Group Position: Poland – 2nd (18 points); Republic of Ireland – 3rd (18 points)
Last Meeting: Republic of Ireland 1-1 Poland, March 29, 2015
Key Men: Poland – Robert Lewandowski; Republic of Ireland – James McCarthy
Form: Poland – WDWLWD; Republic of Ireland – LDDWWW
Shoot Says: Poland 1-1 Republic of Ireland