Tonight’s clash with Arsenal offers Curtis an ideal chance to stake Euro 2020 play-off claim

RONAN CURTIS HAS been enjoying another very productive season at club level.

With 13 goals in all competitions, Curtis – who has also contributed seven assists – is Portsmouth’s leading goalscorer. 

Mick McCarthy has been monitoring his progress, with the Ireland manager stating recently that the winger has been in “top form” as the Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia looms into view.

While the performances of Curtis are certainly encouraging from an Irish perspective, the obvious caveat is that he’s producing them in the third tier of English football.

However, tonight’s visit of Arsenal to Fratton Park (7.45pm) offers the 23-year-old an ideal chance to show that he’s capable of performing against opposition of a significantly higher standard.

A place in the last eight of the FA Cup will be at stake, as Pompey look to cause a major upset by defeating the Gunners for the first time since 1958.

For Curtis, it’s also a chance to take on the club he supported as a child. The League of Ireland graduate spent the first six years of his life in London before his Irish parents relocated back to Donegal.

“My whole family grew up as Arsenal fans,” Curtis told The Portsmouth News ahead of tonight’s game. “The whole household followed them. My idol was Thierry Henry because I played up front and he was a striker.

“So it’s going to be good to be playing them and see Arsenal for the first time. It’s going to be an amazing day and I can’t wait for it.”

Since his move from Derry City ahead of last season, Curtis has become a fan-favourite at Portsmouth. He was strongly linked with Blackburn Rovers in January, before reaffirming his commitment to his current employers by signing a new three-and-a-half-year contract.

Curtis celebrates after scoring in Portsmouth’s FA Cup first round win against Harrogate Town.

Source: Martin Rickett

Having been Ireland’s U21 Player of the Year for 2018, Curtis has gone on to win three senior caps. His only involvement so far during Mick McCarthy’s reign was a start in the 3-1 win over Bulgaria in a friendly last September at the Aviva Stadium.

A positive showing against Premier League opposition would certainly strengthen his hand for inclusion in McCarthy’s plans for a crucial game in Bratislava on 26 March.

Portsmouth, who moved up to third place in League One with a 3-0 win over Rochdale, will host an Arsenal side aiming to avoid being eliminated from a competition for the second time in five days.

Mikel Arteta’s side, who are 10th in the English top flight, were dumped out of the Europa League last Thursday night by Greek outfit Olympiakos.

“Can we do it? Why not?” said Curtis. “It’s 11 v 11 on the day and we’ll see what happens. If we take our chances when they arrive I see no reason why we can’t do it.

“There’s not too much for us to fear. We’ve got nothing to lose. They’re not doing too well and we’re going along brilliantly at the minute.

“If we can win our individual battles and take our chances I actually see no way we can lose really!” 

Curtis picked up a knock during Friday’s victory against Rochdale but Portsmouth manager Kenny Jackett is confident that he’ll be available for selection.

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