England vs Republic of Ireland: A winner after 32 years of draws?

England host the Republic of Ireland in a friendly at Wembley on Thursday as both sides look to secure a victory for the first time in the fixture since the 1980s.

After a build-up plagued by injuries and off-the-field headlines, the focus turns to matters on the pitch as Gareth Southgate’s side hope for a morale-boosting victory as they prepare for Sunday’s Nations League showdown with leaders Belgium.

Republic of Ireland have filled in for original opponents New Zealand, who were forced to withdraw from the fixture due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the amended friendly presents boss Stephen Kenny with the opportunity to claim his first victory since taking charge.

It’s been more than three decades since Ireland last beat England. Only one member – goalkeeper Darren Randolph – of the current Republic of Ireland squad was alive when Ray Houghton headed Ireland to a famous victory over Sir Bobby Robson’s England in Stuttgart in the group stages of Euro 88.

All five subsequent meetings have ended level, with England winless in the fixture since 1985. It’s a sign of the potential over-familiarity interwoven throughout English and Irish camps, with only two of Kenny’s 25-man squad not currently plying their trade in the English leagues.

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Familiar faces

As galling as it is for the match to be forced behind closed doors, it might be a relief for some of England’s players.

Michael Keane played in the Irish youth set-up before switching over to his country of birth, while Jack Grealish created rancour in 2015 when turning down a call-up to the Republic senior side having represented the country up to U21 level.

Both could feature for the Three Lions at an empty Wembley, where Declan Rice will face a country he represented at senior level on three occasions before announcing his intention to switch in February 2019.

  • Analysis: Why Jack Grealish is special

Team news

Seventeen-year-old Jude Bellingham could become England’s third-youngest player if he features against the Republic of Ireland, with Three Lions boss Southgate refusing to rule him playing a part out.

Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has returned to Liverpool to learn the extent of his potentially serious knee injury that forced him to withdraw from the England squad.

Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope is expected to start in place of England regular Jordan Pickford.

  • Gomez out of England squad with knee injury
  • Pope to start for England vs Ireland
  • England goalkeeping options assessed

Republic of Ireland will be without Aaron Connolly for Thursday friendly against England.

The 20-year-old Brighton striker, who missed last month’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final because of a false positive Covid-19 test, has been ruled out of the game at Wembley and the Nations League fixtures against Wales and Bulgaria by an injury suffered in training on Tuesday.

Ireland will also be without West Brom striker Callum Robinson after it was revealed he was the who returned a positive coronavirus test.

Pick your England XI vs Rep or Ireland

But would Bellingham make your line-up? Would Jack Grealish get another start? And who should be England’s No 1? Have your say in our team selector below…

How to follow: England vs Rep of Ireland

You can follow England vs Republic of Ireland with on Sky Sports‘ digital platforms with our dedicated live blog and match commentary. Full-time highlights will be available 15 minutes after the full-time whistle.

Jones Knows prediction

Memories are very short when it comes to managers at the top level. There isn’t much wriggle room for Gareth Southgate over the next few fixtures after the Denmark defeat.

Despite beating Belgium recently, is he really getting the best out of an outstanding crop of English talent? He could do with reminding a few naysayers that he is the man for the job over the next week. That’s why I’d be surprised if he experiments too much in key areas for this friendly.

England are the 1/3 favourites with Sky Bet to win at Wembley, while the Republic of Ireland are at 17/2 and the draw 15/4.

Those prices look about right to me as I’d be in no rush to take on England, mostly due to Ireland’s lack of goal threat. They have scored just twice in their last eight competitive fixtures and the retirement of David McGoldrick doesn’t help in that regard.

Meanwhile, England are unbeaten in their last nine friendly games (W6 D3) since a 3-2 defeat against France in June 2017, conceding just two goals in those nine games. An England win to nil looks the obvious but solid play.

JONES KNOWS PREDICTS: 2-0 (7/1 with Sky Bet)

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  • England and the Republic of Ireland last faced in June 2015 in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium, drawing 0-0. At Wembley, their last meeting was in May 2013 in a friendly, sharing a 1-1 draw.
  • Republic of Ireland have never beaten England at Wembley, playing there six times previously without success (D3 L3).
  • England are winless in seven matches against the Republic of Ireland (D5 L2), their joint-worst current winless run against an opponent, with the Three Lions also seven without a win against Romania.
  • Republic of Ireland’s only away victory against England came back in September 1949, winning 2-1 at Goodison Park in a friendly with goals from Con Martin and Peter Farrell.
  • England are unbeaten in their last 12 home friendly matches (W8 D4) since losing 1-2 against the Netherlands at Wembley in March 2016 under Roy Hodgson.
  • England are looking to avoid losing consecutive matches for only a second time under Gareth Southgate, losing three in a row in September 2018.
  • Stephen Kenny is yet to win a match as Ireland manager in five attempts (D3 L2) – the only manager to fail to win any of his first six matches as Ireland boss was Mick McCarthy back in 1996 (first seven).
  • This game will be Harry Kane’s 50th England cap – Kane will be the 62nd player to reach that tally, and his 32 goals are bettered only by Jimmy Greaves (43) in his first 50 England caps. He will be the first outfield player to win his first 50 caps all for the same club since John Terry won his first 50 with Chelsea, and the first player to win 50 England caps while at Tottenham, with his current 49 level with Jermain Defoe.

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