James McClean and John O’Shea expected to train on Thursday

Both trained lightly Wednesday and are expected to be available for World Cup qualifier

James McClean during training on Wednesday: the decision to let him and John O’Shea  take things relatively easy was described as “precautionary”.  Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

James McClean during training on Wednesday: the decision to let him and John O’Shea take things relatively easy was described as “precautionary”. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

 

James McClean and John O’Shea are both expected to take a full part in Thursday morning’s final Ireland training session before the squad flies to Vienna for Saturday’s sold out World Cup qualifier against Austria.

Neither man trained fully at Abbotstown on Wednesday but the decision to let the pair take things relatively easy was described as “precautionary” and both are expected to be available for Saturday evening’s critically important game.

O’Shea is recovering from a hamstring problem sustained in the league defeat by Arsenal a week and a half ago but the veteran defender continues to make good progress after staying on at Sunderland for an extra day in order to continue his rehabilitation.

McClean injured his back while training over the weekend but a scan is said to have indicated that the problem is not serious and the 27-year-old looks increasingly likely to start to retain his spot in the Ireland starting line-up on Saturday.

Kevin Doyle and Eunan O’Kane both trained on Wednesday, giving Martin O’Neill a full squad to choose from although that squad does not include injured players like James McCarthy, Stephen Ward and Shane Long, all of whom might have been expected to feature in Vienna.

O’Neill’s opposite number, Marcel Koller, has problems of his own, however, with first-choice goalkeeper Robert Almer as well as Zlatko Junuzovic and Sebastian Prodl all ruled out of the Ireland game.

“There will be changes,” the Swiss coach acknowledged, “but I don’t think it will be too much of a problem. There is a great deal at stake and so the players who come in will not be short of motivation.  

Very tight qualification race

“We have to put the disappointment of last month (when they lost 3-2 in Belgrade) behind us. We are at home and want to impose our game on Ireland and score goals.”

That has not been a huge problem for his side so far with six scored in the opening three games but they have conceded six too and taken only four points, leaving them with little further room for slip-ups in what promises to be a very tight qualification race.

Koller will be hoping that David Alaba can rediscover his best form this weekend after a spell in which the Bayern Munich start, who did so much to end Ireland’s hopes of reaching the last World Cup, has come in for criticism in both Austria and Germany. 

“I’m trying to be myself,” says the 24-year-old, “not to be distracted by it. I need to concentrate on my performance on the pitch, and I think I’ve done that”.

Alaba accepts that Austria are under the greater pressure to win this game but he is not, he insists, overly discouraged by the poor start the team has made to the campaign. “The qualification is still long, but of course we want to win.” 

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