Denmark star Christian Eriksen will start against Republic of Ireland in final Nations League group tie
Nations League Group B: Denmark v Republic of Ireland (tonight, Aarhus, 7.45pm)
DENMARK manager Age Hareide has confirmed star player Christian Eriksen will start tonight’s Nations League clash against the Republic of Ireland in Aarhus.
Although the Danes have already topped Group B and will advance in the Nations League, Eriksen continues on the comeback trail after suffering a stomach muscle injury that has curtailed his game-time with Tottenham Hotspur over the last six weeks.
The 26-year-old schemer played 90 minutes in Denmark’s impressive win over Wales last Friday night – which guaranteed them top spot and relegated the Republic – but he probably won’t finish tonight’s game against the Irish.
“Christian will play tomorrow from the start,” Hareide said, an ominous sign for Martin O’Neill’s side in Aarhus.
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“We have to nurse him as much as possible, and that means he probably won’t be staying on for 90 minutes.”
First-choice goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and midfield kingpin Thomas Delaney are both suspended for tonight’s hosts.
The contrast in form between the Danes and the Irish couldn’t be any starker.
Apart from their penalty shoot-out loss to Croatia in last summer’s World Cup finals and their severely weakened team that shipped a 3-0 loss to Slovakia, the Danes haven’t experienced one competitive defeat since October 2016 (against Montenegro).
The Irish have recorded just one win (against USA) in their last 10 outings.
While the 65-year-old Norwegian will make “some changes” to his side tonight to determine who is “capable of playing international matches and who’s capable of doing the job if injuries and suspensions in the next campaign”, he is also keen to maintain Denmark’s winning habit.
“You have to be very careful at international level. A few games in a year and things can change very quickly for the worse or for the better. I talked about that just today to the players and it’s important to keep our feet on the ground, keep working and getting results. A side grows through good results, but if you lose balance and bad results come, that’s football.
“In international football there are not so many games or training. That’s why every game is like a game and training at the same time.”
On O’Neill’s desperately poor run as Ireland manager, Hareide had some sympathy for his former Norwich team-mate.
“With Norway we got four draws and four defeats - four one-goal defeats and four draws,” he recalled.
“Sometimes you get into a series of bad results and it’s hard to get out of in many ways.
“When you think of the days when you had a good run, you try to do the things you did when things went the right way.”
The Republic haven’t scored a goal in their last three games and are a side desperately low on confidence.
“Ireland are very strong on set-pieces but we have to be aware of everything,” cautioned Hareide.
“We’re playing against an international side but set pieces are probably their main threat.”