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Ireland To Deal Erik’s Swedes A Hamr’ Blow

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Richard Dunne is back at the heart of the Irish defence for tonight’s crucial FIFA World Cup qualifier against Sweden at the Aviva Stadium (7.45pm) .

The Queens Park Rangers defender will win his 78th cap after recovering from the injury which forced him to miss almost all of last season for club and country.

Dunne will partner John O’Shea at centre-back with Seamus Coleman and Marc Wilson in the full-back berths and David Forde behind them between the sticks.

In midfield, newly signed Wigan Athletic winger James McClean has got the nod to start on the left flank with Jonathon Walters on the opposite side and Glenn Whelan partnering Everton’s new signing James McCarthy in the centre.

Up front in-form Robbie Keane will partner Shane Long , who will be hoping to improve his record of scoring in competitive games while also proving to his club West Brom, who tried to sell him to Hull City on deadline day, that he has the credentials to cut it at the top.

The side shows four changes from Ireland’s last competitive match against the Faroe Islands in June with Dunne, McCarthy, McClean and Long coming in for Sean St Ledger, Wes Hoolahan, Aidan McGeady and Simon Cox.

Norwich City star Anthony Pilkington is expected to make his long awaited debut from the bench while both Keiren Westwood and Robbie Brady will find it hard to grasp why they are warming the bench following their start to the season at Sunderland and Hull City respectively.

Sweden have a doubt surrounding Celtic defender Mikael Lustig, who has suffered an ankle problem, but Spartak Moscow midfielder Kim Kallstrom has returned from injury. While Andreas Granqvist is suspended, Fulham winger Alex Kacaniklic is available having overcome his fitness problem.

Ireland will be aiming to improve on their performance from Stockholm last March when these two sides drew. With the two sides and Austria all tied on eleven points with four games remaining , Ireland know anything but a win will put a serious dent in their World Cup aspirations.

Ireland Team: David Forde, Seamus Coleman, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea, Marc Wilson; Jonathon Walters, Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy, James McClean; Robbie Keane, Shane Long.

Probable Sweden Team: Andreas Isaksson, Mikael Lustig , Mikael Antonsson , Per Nilsson , Martin Olsson , Albin Ekdal , Anders Svensson , Sebastian Larsson , Alex Kacaniklic , Zlatan Ibrahimovic , Johan Elmander.

Prediction : Ireland 2-1 Sweden

Image courtesy of The Guardian.

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