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Rep of Ireland V Russia Preview


It is crunch time in qualifying group B as Ireland take on Russia at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Friday night.

While the term ‘crunch time’ may seem ridiculous given that we are only two games into the campaign, Ireland can take a huge step towards qualifying with a victory that would leave Russia with three points from a possible nine. Meanwhile Russia know that they need to go for a win already, having lost at home to Slovakia last time out and having failed to impress in their 2-0 win over Andorra.

 

Who are ya? Who are ya?

 

 

Both sides face tricky away trips following Friday night’s clash, with Ireland away to Slovakia who hold a 100% record so far, and Russia travelling to Macedonia. However all eyes will be on Irish coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who has a good record so far but like many Italian managers, is occasionally guilty of settling for draws in games Ireland have a good chance of winning against so-called bigger teams.

When Italy were reduced to ten men after just three minutes of the World Cup qualifier away to Italy on April 1 last year, Ireland could and should have sensed that now was their time to claim a historic result ad attack a weak Italy team made weaker by Gianpaolo Pazzini’s third-minute dismissal. However Ireland failed to pick up the pace and after falling behind needed a last-minute equaliser.

That Italy would find a last-minute equaliser in the return fixture when Ireland had played quite well was perhaps a sense of justice being done.

Does Trapattoni go for the win?

But Trapattoni’s mindset for Friday will be interesting. Again Ireland will find themselves up against opposition which has weakened in recent years. A breathtaking Russian team from 2008 seems to have fallen apart a bit and failing to qualify for the World Cup followed by poor opening performances in this group have put the Russian fans on high alert.

Ireland failed to impress in their opening games either, but know that now is the time to strike. In order to start qualifying for major tournaments again, the men in green need to play without fear of the big boys, as they did against France in the play-offs when they were so cruelly denied.

TEAM NEWS:

Ireland:

Could the constantly worried-looking Coleman make his debut?

Damien Duff is ruled out along with Keith Treacy meaning Russian-based winger Aiden McGeady (known as Makgidi on the Spartak website) should continue on the left along with Liam Lawrence who has been in great form for Portsmouth. Doyle and Keane will start up front as usual and Richard Dunne is expected to line up at the back despite missing training on Wednesday. One choice Trapattoni does have is whether to include Everton’s Seamus Coleman as a debutant at right back. This could mean switching John O’Shea to left back and putting Kevin Kilbane on the left in a more defensive formation, dropping Kilbane altogether which is unlikely given the manager’s faith in him, or putting O’Shea in at centre back in an experienced partnership with Dunne (or replacing the Aston Villa man if he fails to recover from injury).

 

Russia:
Roman Pavulychenko is ruled out for the tie, meaning Russia will choose a front three from Zenit St Petersburg forwards Alexander Bukharov and Aleksandr Kerzhakov; Arsenal’s Andriy Arshavin and Pavel Pogrebnyak of VfB Stuttgart. The forwards have been in explosive form with Kerzhakov notching up two hat-tricks in three games last month while Pogrebnyak has five goals in seven games for Stuttgart.

LAST TIE BETWEEN THE TWO?

The two teams last met in qualifying for Euro 2004, when Russia won 4-2  in Moscow, racing into a 3-0 lead and sealing maximum points thanks to a Phil Babb own goal after Clinton Morrison and Gary Doherty had reduced the deficit. The return game at Lansdowne Road ended 1-1, Sergei Ignashevich cancelling out Damien Duff’s opener before half-time.

MAN TO WATCH?

Aiden McGeady in Champions League action with Spartak Moscow

 

Has to be Ireland’s Aiden McGeady. The Spartak Moscow winger is enjoying a new lease of life in Russia where he has averaged an assist per game so far. He admits the pre-game banter before Friday’s clash was “a little lost in translation” but will relish showing the Russians what he can do in a green jersey.
So often a frustrating figure, particularly in Ireland’s 3-1 win over Andorra last month where despite constantly beating hid marker he failed to provide decent crosses, McGeady has been living off his potential for years now, but a brave move to Russia may do him the power of good.

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