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The Republic of Ireland U-21 squad take on Italy U-21’s in Pisa on Tuesday evening. Jim Crawford’s team currently sit top of the group, three points ahead of their opponents Italy. However Italy have a game in hand meaning this is a crucial game for both sides. Iceland are just one point behind Italy and are up against bottom of the group Luxembourg.
Preparations haven’t been straight forward for Crawford. A calamitous week for the senior squad resulted in five players missing the draw against Wales on Sunday afternoon due to COVID-19 protocols. Consequently, Jason Knight and Dara O’Shea have left the U-21 training camp and joined Stephen Kenny’s squad.
Crawford admits that his team’s “preparations have been scuppered”. Not only due to squad alterations, but also because he is in the dark of with regards to the team Italy will field. The Italians’ game against Iceland was postponed on Friday after two players tested positive for COVID-19.
Republic of Ireland U21 boss Jim Crawford is finetuning his side for battle in Italy tomorrow – but preparations have been challenging #RTEsoccer pic.twitter.com/dkfldVpnJH
— Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) October 12, 2020
Nevertheless, there is still a selection of high quality players to choose from. Bohemians winger Danny Grant has been called up on the back of recent form. He replaces Shamrock Rovers’ Neil Farrugia who missed out through injury. Conor McCarthy of St. Mirren also steps in to replace Dara O’Shea. Premier League players Will Smallbone, Conor Coventry (see graphic below) and Michael Obafemi are all expected to feature.
MAKING AN IMPACT 👊
Check out these monster stats from @conorcoventry so far in this #IRLU21 campaign
1️⃣ day to #ITAIRL 🇮🇹🇮🇪 pic.twitter.com/C1Xt8QEh9z
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) October 12, 2020
Jim Crawford is not underestimating the significance of the fixture: “We know just how important this game is in terms of the Group but also in terms of our chances of qualifying for the finals tournament”. The winner of the group will qualify for the U-21 European Championship in 2021.
Republic of Ireland U-21 vs Italy U-21 kicks off at 4pm Irish time.