Gent vs. Shamrock Rovers – prediction, team news, lineups

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The two sides each dropped into the tournament after falling short in the Europa League playoff round and will look to gain an edge with a first win.

Match preview

Gent coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck reacts on March 17, 2022© Reuters

After topping the second playoff group in the Belgian Pro League last season, Gent earned entry into Europa League qualifying at the playoff round, meaning just one two-legged encounter stood between them and the group stage of Europe’s secondary tournament.

Hein Vanhaezebrouck‘s side would meet Omonia Nicosia, and after suffering a 2-0 defeat on home turf, they would lose by the same scoreline in Cyprus, dropping into the Europa Conference League group stage in disappointing fashion as a result.

On the back of a mixed run of form in their domestic top flight, consisting of defeats to Royal Antwerp and Charleroi either side of a win over Anderlecht, De Buffalo’s kicked off their group campaign with a trip to Norway to take on Molde, and they were able to leave with a point as neither side managed to break the deadlock.

Vanhaezebrouck’s men were then able to return to winning ways in league action last time out, beating Zulte Waregem 2-0 on home turf thanks to goals from Hugo Cuypers and Jordan Torunarigha and moving up to fifth spot with 14 points from their eight outings.

They will now aim to build on that win and their opening draw with a first victory of the group stage to put themselves in the top two on Thursday.

Shamrock Rovers, meanwhile, will make the trip to Belgium hoping to cause somewhat of an upset after picking up a commendable point of their own in the first round of fixtures.

The League of Ireland Premier Division winners entered Champions League qualifying in the first round and saw off Hibernians in a 3-0 aggregate triumph before falling short against Ludogorets, eventually losing 4-2 on aggregate despite an impressive 2-1 home win.

Consequently, Stephen Bradley‘s side dropped into contention for the Europa League, and they advanced to the playoff round with a 5-2 beating of Shkupi to guarantee some form of European group-stage football, but that would come in the form of the continent’s tertiary competition as they lost 4-1 to Ferencvaros, having again, at least, won on the night at home.

On the back of a dominant run in the Irish top flight, in their bid for a third straight league title, the Hoops started life in the group stage with a home contest against Swedish side Djurgardens IF and were able to put a point on the board as the game remained goalless, just like their opponents’ curtain-raiser.

They now head into Thursday’s contest with momentum from a 5-1 thrashing of Finn Harps to remain at the summit of the League of Ireland Premier Division, as Neil Farrugia hit a brace alongside goals from Rory GaffneyAndrew Lyons and Jack Byrne, and with everything in the balance in Group F after two draws in the first round of games, Bradley’s men will aim to gain an edge with an eye-catching away win on the continent.

Team News

Gent coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck on November 25, 2021© Reuters

Gent defender Joseph Okumu will return to contention after he served a suspension in their league win over Zulte Waregem, and he could come straight back into the back three alongside Jordan Torunarigha and Andreas Hanche-Olsen, although Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui has also laid his claim for a starting spot after playing a part in their clean sheet last time out.

Hugo Cuypers should again lead their line, having hit five goals in eight league appearances so far this season, while Eintracht Frankfurt loanee Jens Petter Hauge should also return to the front line.

The attackers will likely be supported by Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, with Sven Kums and Hyun-seok Hong set to partner up at the base of the midfield.

Rory Gaffney is arguably Shamrock Rovers’ main attacking threat, and he should lead the line having contributed eight goals and eight assists in league action this term and two goals and three assists in continental qualifying.

Competition for other places up front is rife, with the likes of Neil Farrugia, Aaron Greene and Graham Burke all fighting to feature from the outset.

Midfielder Richie Towell is set to continue a spell on the sidelines, but Chris McCann will offer plenty of experience in the engine room in his absence, likely alongside Gary O’Neill and Dylan Watts.

Gent possible starting lineup:
Nardi; Hanche-Olsen, Okumu, Torunarigha; Samoise, Kums, Hong, Castro-Montes; Odjidja-Ofoe; Hauge, Cuypers

Shamrock Rovers possible starting lineup:
Mannus; Gannon, Hoare, Grace; Lyons, McCann, O’Neill, Watts, Byrne; Gaffney, Greene

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