Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will all play in the European Qualifying play-off semi-finals on Thursday as they edge closer to a spot at Euro 2020.
The original play-off ties were due to be played in March but after a global lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fixtures were postponed, as was the Euro 2020 tournament itself.
Now, those fixtures are being played for next summer's rearranged competition and will be a one-off fixture on October 8 before the finals on November 12.
For the first time, teams must come through more than one round to reach Euro 2020 and, unlike all previous editions, sides have qualified to participate in the play-offs via the Nations League rather than the European Qualifiers.
An old foe for Scotland
Scotland vs Israel - 7.45pm kick-off, live on Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm
Here are two teams that know each other very well - Thursday's encounter represents the fourth meeting in two years between Scotland and Israel. Both sides have registered one win apiece - both at home - with the other a 1-1 draw last month in the Nations League.
Scotland have lost just one of their previous six matches against Israel - a 2-1 Nations League defeat in October 2018 - but their two previous play-off ties in European Qualifying have seen them eliminated. They were beaten 2-1 on aggregate by England in November 1999 and lost 6-1 on aggregate to the Netherlands in November 2003.
Playing in Path C, the winner of this tie will face either Serbia or Norway in the European Qualifying play-off final on November 12.
Team news - Scotland: It was announced on Wednesday Stuart Armstrong had tested positive for coronavirus and will therefore miss the upcoming internationals for Scotland. Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie have also been identified as close contacts and will also have to self-isolate. Scott McKenna, Oliver Burke and Liam Palmer are also sidelined through injury, along with James Forrest.
Oli McBurnie and Ryan Fraser have been recalled for the latest round of matches after missing out in September, although the latter has been short of match fitness after a summer move to Newcastle. Ryan Jack was expected to miss out with a calf injury, but after returning to training with Rangers last week, he has also been handed a call-up alongside Lawrence Shankland, who withdrew last time because of an ankle injury.
Team news - Israel: Two of Israel's starting players from last month's meeting - Taleb Tawatha and Dor Peretz - have been ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus. Maccabi Tel Aviv's Mohammad Abu Fani - who made headlines for comments made about Harry Kane earlier this month - and Dan Bitton have been called up for the first time.
What the managers have said
Scotland manager Steve Clarke: "We have lost six players from the squad. It is up to us to make the nation smile tomorrow night. We know we have the nation behind us.
Everyone is aware of the size of the game. It is a knockout competition now and we will have to deal with it. It can go to 120 minutes, and it can go penalties. I always did it as a club manager that if you are going into a game that is going to penalties, then that week, in training, at then end of the sessions let everybody take a penalty and see what happens.
"But we know that taking one on a training pitch, and taking one in a stadium where there is a lot riding on it is a totally different experience."
Stat of the match: Scotland have won their last three European Championship qualifiers, last winning four consecutively back in October 2007.
Evans fit for Northern Ireland as Davis targets cap record
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs Northern Ireland - 7.45pm kick-off.
Another pair who met recently in the Nations League, Northern Ireland lost both of their group fixtures against Bosnia and Herzegovina in September and October 2018.
The result could set up a huge all-Irish play-off final. Playing in Path B, the winner of this tie will face either Slovakia or the Republic of Ireland in the European Qualifying play-off final on November 12.
Northern Ireland's only other previous play-off matches in qualifying for a major tournament were in November 2017 against Switzerland, losing 1-0 on aggregate in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
Bosnia have also never progressed in a play-off tie in qualifying for a major tournament, but have a little bit more experience under their belt. They lost 2-0 on aggregate to Portugal in November 2009 and again to the Portuguese in November 2011, this time a 6-2 aggregate defeat. There was also a 3-1 aggregate loss to the Republic of Ireland in November 2015.
Team news - Bosnia and Herzegovina: The match will go ahead despite assistant manager Rusmir Cviko and winger Haris Duljevic testing positive for coronavirus. Neither will be involved in Thursday's game. Key centre-back Ermin Bicakcic will also not be available after he was forced to withdraw from the squad due to injury.
Team news - Northern Ireland: Jonny Evans is expected to be fit after taking a knock in Leicester's Premier League defeat to West Ham on Sunday, but Ian Baraclough said he had reported to camp ready to play. Baraclough added there were "one or two bumps and bruises", but no major issues to worry about.
Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis played only a limited role in Rangers' 2-0 win over Ross County on Sunday, coming on as an 83rd-minute substitute, meaning he is fresh as he stands to break Pat Jennings' caps record on Thursday by making his 120th appearance.
What the managers have said
Bosnia and Herzegovina manager Dusan Bajevic: "We have beaten [Northern Ireland] twice, but we gave them a lot of space in those matches. We had some bad moments and we could've paid for them. It would be a big mistake to think that we will win the next match and that everything will play out like in the last two encounters with Northern Ireland.
"The [Northern] Irish team typically plays in a similar fashion to the English team. They are quick, strong, good at heading, very fast. They can be very awkward opponents. I believe we won't be making mistakes and that we will capitalise on the mistakes the Irish make. There is no second leg, and I believe that we will be ready for that and that we will win."
Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough: "There's a definite focus on making sure we are in the final come next month to give ourselves a chance to get to the Euros.
"Players want to be there. Players want to experience the feeling of being at a competition that is renowned worldwide now and being on the biggest stage, so there's no bigger incentive."
Stat of the match: Northern Ireland striker Josh Magennis has scored three goals as a substitute in Euro 2020 qualifying, more than any other player, finding the net in three of his last four such appearances as a substitute.
Republic of Ireland without Coleman
Slovakia vs Republic of Ireland - 7.45pm kick-off.
Stephen Kenny is still searching for his first win as Republic of Ireland manager, but his side are unbeaten in all five of their previous matches against Slovakia. But four of these have been draws with the other a 1-0 win in March 2007.
As mentioned above, should the Republic of Ireland win, they could set up a meeting with Northern Ireland in the European Qualifying play-off final on November 12.
The Republic of Ireland's last single-leg play-off match in qualifying for the European Championships was back in December 1995 - the first time play-offs were introduced - losing 2-0 to the Netherlands at Anfield in Jack Charlton's final match in charge.
It is also the first time Slovakia are playing in a play-off round in qualifying for a major tournament since November 2005, when they lost 6-2 on aggregate to Spain and were eliminated in their quest to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
Team news - Slovakia: Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka remains out with an injury with Michal Duris also sidelined with concussion. Pavol Safranko has been called up to replace him. There are also doubts over key midfielder Stanislav Lobotka, who remains in quarantine after two first-team players at his club Napoli tested positive for coronavirus.
Team news - Republic of Ireland: Captain Seamus Coleman looks likely to miss out after limped out of Everton's 4-2 Premier League win over Brighton on Saturday. with Blackburn defender Darragh Lenihan a certain omission with a knee injury.
Josh Cullen - who joined Anderlecht from West Ham on Deadline Day - has been called into the squad to replace Harry Arter, who is sidelined with a thigh injury. Cyrus Christie has been called into the squad for Coleman and Burnley centre-back Kevin Long replaces Lenihan.
A member of the Republic of Ireland's backroom team has tested positive for coronavirus in the run-up to the game, but this has not had an impact on plans to travel to Slovakia for Thursday's game.
What the managers have said
Slovakia manager Pavel Hapal: "We have been following our Irish opponents for almost a year, they had a change of coach. They were probably not happy with the last match against Finland. It is a typical English style of football, tenacious and aggressive players. They are strong from set-pieces, nothing easy awaits us."
Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny: "It's a tough game. We have got to go out to Slovakia. They have good home form and are a very consistent and experienced team, but the other side of it is it's a tremendous opportunity for us.
"We know the opportunity that does exist and the possibility of the European Championship in Ireland is unique, really. It's never happened before and may never happen again. So there's that kind of motivation to lift the country. It would be an incredible experience for the whole country.
"But we're a long way away from that because we've got a tough game in Slovakia and that's only a semi-final. We've got to do something extraordinary and win away from home again, and we're planning with everything we have to try to achieve that.
"We'll approach the game in a positive frame of mind. We're unlikely to be cautious, I would say."
Stat of the match: No Republic of Ireland player has scored more than once in Euro 2020 qualifying so far, with their seven goals all scored by different players (including one own goal). David McGoldrick has had 22 of their 99 shots in qualifying but scored just once.
What do the pathways look like?
The winners of each tie in the pathways will then face each other in the European Qualifying play-off finals on November 12 for a spot at Euro 2020.
- Path A: Bulgaria or Hungary vs Iceland or Romania
- Path B: Bosnia and Herzegovina or Northern Ireland vs Slovakia or Republic of Ireland
- Path C: Norway or Serbia vs Scotland or Israel
- Path D: Georgia or Belarus vs North Macedonia or Kosovo
Other matches live on Sky
All of the European Qualifying play-off semi-final and final matches will be shown live on Sky Sports Football, via the red button, or on the Sky Sports app. All kick-offs are at 7.45pm unless stated:
- Georgia vs Belarus (kick-off 5pm, live on Sky Sports Football)
- Bulgaria vs Hungary
- Iceland vs Romania
- North Macedonia vs Kosovo
- Norway vs Serbia
Source: Sky Sports
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