Trapattoni aiming to rejig back four
John O'Shea and Wednesday's goalscorer Ciaran Clark are part of Giovanni Trapattoni's defensive plans. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton/Reuters
SOCCER:Giovanni Trapattoni is unlikely to start next month’s qualifying game in Sweden with both Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger in defence even if the pair are fit enough to resume a partnership that has been a foundation of this team under the Italian since the middle of 2009.
Both are now recovering from long-term injuries; Dunne’s involves a thigh muscle, St Ledger’s a hamstring and while both are said to be approaching full fitness again, Trapattoni said yesterday that the prospect of reuniting them for the hugely important qualifying game in Stockholm increasingly looked like “a risk”.
In the wake of the win over Poland, the manager said that he would be happy to play Ciaran Clark, possibly alongside Dunne, while he hopes to have Seamus Coleman and Marc Wilson available for selection.
Barring a mishap between now and then, the only defender the Italian feels is a certainty to play, however, is John O’Shea, with Trapattoni suggesting that the question is really whether he occupies one of the full-back berths or stays on in central defence.
“Richard has told me he will be ready in two weeks but I told him to take his time; we need him for next month. I hope they can all come back but if St Ledger and Dunne are available I don’t think that I would play them together, it’s a big risk for such an important game.
“But we are lucky to have John, he can play left, right or in the centre,” he added before confirming that the Sunderland defender will start somewhere in the team’s back four.
In midfield, James McCarthy looks to be a certainty to start with Trapattoni talking about the Wigan player these days in a manner that suggests he now sees the 22-year-old as being pivotal to the side’s future.
Glenn Whelan looks to be in pole position to retain his place although there are a number of alternatives. Whether Darron Gibson is one of them remains to be seen, with the player’s assertion that he was not fit to join up with the squad leaving a question mark over whether he is actually willing to return at present.
Trapattoni resisted renewed pressure regarding Wes Hoolahan and insisted that, while he has the highest regard for the Norwich player, starting him against Sweden would require a change in formation which would ultimately undermine Ireland’s chances.
“When you play with one [striker] you can still score but you need to be strong. Against teams that are technically better then you need more.”
Shane Long, it seems, is likely to feature prominently but Jon Walters was also mentioned in positive terms while Conor Sammon, he said, is in contention after what the manager says he viewed as a satisfactory performance.
Contrary to the impression generally given in the past, he said that Robbie Keane is not guaranteed to start in Solna.