Republic of Ireland v Serbia: Jeff Hendrick ruled out of vital Dublin game


Jeff Hendrick (right) put the Republic ahead in last September’s qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade

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Jeff Hendrick will miss the Republic of Ireland’s crucial World Cup qualifier at home to Serbia on Tuesday after failing to recover from a thigh injury.

Manager Martin O’Neill had been hoping to welcome back the Burnley man after the team’s poor display in Georgia.

However, O’Neill confirmed on Monday morning that the 25-year-old would remain out for the contest in Dublin against the Group D leaders.

“He is still feeling it (the injury). He’ll miss out,” said O’Neill.

Out-of-contention Georgia dominated on Saturday in Tbilisi as the Republic hung on for a 1-1 draw following Shane Duffy’s early goal.

Central midfielder Glenn Whelan looked an obvious choice to lose out after managing only three forward passes during the entire contest as the Georgians enjoyed 69% of the possession.

Hendrick was being tipped to replace Aston Villa player Whelan but that option is not now available to O’Neill.

Wes Hoolahan remained on the bench despite the Republic’s struggles in Tbilisi

Hoolahan an option for O’Neill

The Republic’s inability to hold on to the ball in Tbilisi has increased the clamour from some for the inclusion of Wes Hoolahan.

Hendrick’s absence could now open the door to Hoolahan, with Harry Arter playing in the anchor midfield role, although it’s worth noting that O’Neill opted not to bring on the Norwich City veteran in Tbilisi despite the misfiring display.

Playing alongside a more dynamic central midfield partner in Hoolahan could possibly aid Bournemouth man Arter, who struggled badly before being substituted on Saturday.

Shane Long also had a frustrating evening in his lone frontman role in Tbilisi and O’Neill may decide Daryl Murphy’s greater physical presence represents a better offensive option against the Serbs.

Murphy notched the late equaliser in last September’s 2-2 draw in Belgrade after Hendrick had given the Irish an early lead.

At the back, Stephen Ward had an uncomfortable outing at left-back in Tbilisi and Robbie Brady’s struggles in the floating midfield role may convince O’Neill to start the former Norwich player on the defensive flank.

Republic need ‘phenomenal effort’ – O’Neill

The Serbs moved two points ahead of the second-placed Irish by earning a 3-0 home win over Moldova on Saturday as Mijat Gacinovic scored his second goal in as many internationals.

Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Gacinovic was the pick of the Serb players in Belgrade as Roma’s Aleksandar Kolarov and Newcastle’s Aleksandar Mitrovic were also on target.

Serbia coach Slavoljub Muslin withdrew Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic and Southampton’s Dusan Tadic well before the end with a view to keeping them fresh for Tuesday’s Dublin contest.

Republic boss O’Neill says his side will have to produce a “phenomenal effort” to beat a more technically adept team.

“We have to obviously play better and give the Serbs less room to play than we gave the Georgians, particularly in the first half,” added O’Neill.

“We’ll have to be really, really at our best to win the game – but we can do that.”

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