Keane targets Galaxy return in time for Ireland's date with destiny
ROBBIE KEANE is potentially playing with fire after declaring that he expects to be fit in time for the MLS play-offs that precede Ireland's crucial Euro 2012 showdown with Estonia.
On the face of it, Keane has delivered an injury boost to Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni by revealing he could be ready to return to play some part in LA Galaxy's Conference play-offs, which begin next weekend.
After splashing out to acquire his services, the Dubliner's employers are understandably desperate to have him present for the climax of their season.
If they are to qualify for the final of the MLS Cup, they will have to come through three games between now and the international break. Both Keane and coach Bruce Arena have delivered a positive bulletin on his recovery from muscle problems.
Trapattoni will be watching with interest from afar.
The 72-year-old is particularly careful about rushing players back from muscular problems, and has already rapped Keane for not informing the bench he was in pain from early on in the recent 2-0 win over Andorra.
By playing on, Keane made the problem worse, and the Irish boss will be hoping that his skipper is brought back to action when he is ready rather than being rushed by Galaxy.
With Simon Cox producing a Man of the Match display against Armenia, and Shane Long and Jonathan Walters in fine form in the Premier League, Trapattoni does have striking options despite Keane's difficulty and the suspension of Kevin Doyle.
Still, Trapattoni places a high value on experience and, if Keane comes through his club matches unscathed, he will be a certain starter for the first leg in Tallinn on November 11.
With the suspensions and injuries, Long will be pushing hard for a place in the front line particularly given his impressing form for West Brom.
"It was disappointing not to play against Armenia, but it was the right result," he said. "We now have Estonia in the play-offs and hopefully we can get to the Euros and make it a good summer next year.
"There are a lot of games for West Brom before that so hopefully I can stake my claim in those games. People say I've got a great chance to start with Kevin Doyle suspended and Robbie Keane injured.
"Kevin is missing and I would like to think I am a natural replacement for him, but I thought I may start the last game as well, and it wasn't to be, so we will have to see what happens."