Football: McCarthy needs goals

By this stage of the World Cup qualifying campaign, the Republic of Ireland had hoped to be engaged in a two-way fight with Romania for the top spot in Group Eight. Instead, Mick McCarthy's side find themselves in third place - three points behind Macedonia, eight adrift of Romania, and ahead of Lithuania, whom they play tonight in a crucial game in Dublin, only on goal difference.

McCarthy expects the Lithuanians to erect a stern defensive barrier and aim to earn a point and a psychological edge for the return game in Vilnius on 10 September. The manager knows he he must send out an attacking team, and he is likely to choose Tony Cascarino, who scored twice as a substitute against Liechtenstein in the Republic's last game, ahead of Niall Quinn as the target man.

One man certain of his place is David Connolly, now with Feyenoord, who hit the other three goals in the 5-0 win over Liechtenstein. A problem for McCarthy is that he has nine players who are one yellow card away from a suspension. "I can't afford to worry about that," he said. "There's no way I can ask them not to tackle for the ball and, if we get bookings that way, there is nothing you can do about it."

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (Probable team) (World Cup qualifier v Lithuania, Lansdowne Road, Dublin, tonight): Given (Newcastle); Kenna (Blackburn), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Staunton (Aston Villa), Irwin, Keane (both Manchester Utd), Houghton (Reading), Townsend (Aston Villa), Connolly (Feyenoord), Cascarino (Nancy), Kennedy (Liverpool).