Trapattoni set to stick with tried and tested


SOCCER:WHAT HE is lacking in terms of a little quality here and there, Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni seems intent on making up for with as much consistency as possible if yesterday’s Ireland training session at Malahide is anything to go by.

The Italian rarely makes any effort to conceal the line-up he intends to select for a big game and the indications on this occasion were very much that he is intent on becoming the first Ireland manager to start with the same side in three consecutive games since Mick McCarthy did for the Germany, Saudi Arabia and Spain games at the World Cup in 2002.

There are, of course, very few serious choices to be made by the manager ahead of tomorrow night’s match against Russia, with the dilemma of whether to return Damien Duff or Keith Andrews to a winning side removed on Monday when the pair were declared injured, while the temptation to embark on a reshuffle at the back to better cope with the pace of the Russians out wide has apparently been easy enough to resist.

In yesterday’s training game, indeed, the “probables” lined out exactly as has been, with John O’Shea – the man who is key to any organisation of the defence – lining out on the right and Paul Green slotting in alongside Glenn Whelan in central midfield.

The only absentee from the starting 11 Trapattoni is expected to confirm at his prematch press conference shortly after lunch-time this afternoon was Richard Dunne, who continues to struggle with a slight knee injury.

The problem was serious enough yesterday for the FAI’s medical staff to bring the centre-back to hospital for a scan but in a statement issued last night the association said no unexpected problems had been revealed.

The tone suggested, as Marco Tardelli had again insisted after training yesterday, the 31-year-old will be fit enough to play tomorrow evening.

Tardelli maintained the lay-off this week will not have any real adverse effect on Dunne although he did appear to acknowledge the Dubliner might not be quite 100 per cent when he takes the field against the Russians.

“But he is strong,” said the Italian, with considerable confidence. “He always plays and I’m sure he will play against Russia.”

Asked if was concerned that his defensive partner was having to be nursed through the week so as to be fit for the game itself, Sean St Ledger seemed a little amused by the thought.

“Ah, I’ll give him a cuddle later!” he laughed as he made his way off the training pitch. “Nah,” he continued, “I’m sure he will be fine to play even if he has a little problem with his knee. He’s a big strong lad.

“We certainly need him, he’s a major part of what we are trying to achieve. Obviously for me to play alongside someone like him with that sort of experience is vital. He’s got that experience and know-how and he’s played in the Premier League for a long time and done brilliantly.

“He’s great on the physical side of things and great on the ball so playing alongside him with such great attributes can help me along the way.”

St Ledger is well aware the visit of the Russians, who drew 1-1 on their last visit here in late 2003, will be one of the key tests of the campaign and he is reluctant to get remotely carried away by the news that the visitors, who arrived in Dublin last night, will be missing Roman Pavlyuchenko, the Spurs striker who was actually unlikely to start tomorrow night’s game.

Expecting a busy night?

“Yeah, Pav being injured means they will play the lad (Pavel Pogrebnyak) who has scored a lot of goals in the German League. He’s had a great start to the season and he’s a big lad as well. But if it’s a physical battle then I’m looking forward to it.

“In football these days, footballers are getting bigger when you see the size of some of the lads. Obviously, if he is bigger than you then you must find out a way to combat that. But we’ll do our home work on him.

“I suppose he (Pavlyuchenko) is the best known of their strikers as he plays in the Premier League but whether he is the best striker I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Robbie (Keane) that.

“I think everybody knows all about (Andrey) Arshavin’s qualities too and he is playing in an Arsenal side full of talent. But I don’t think they are just a one-man band and they have a lot of talented players. And they have a good manager who has been all around with great club sides.

“We’ve got off to a great start, though, and it was a tough game in Armenia. I think we are fully focused on the job at hand and I think the confidence it would give us if we got a result against Russia it would make it a lot more difficult for them. And going away to Slovakia, it would breed confidence. Winning always does.”