Lawrence faces fitness test as Long gets nod to replace injured Doyle
Published 12/10/2010 | 05:00
GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI has decided to retain Liam Lawrence on the right side of midfield for this evening's Euro 2012 qualifier with Slovakia -- provided he passes a fitness test today.
The Ireland manager had suggested in his pre-match press conference that he might introduce Birmingham's Keith Fahey for a first competitive start after his impressive cameo in Friday's defeat to Russia.
However, Trapattoni said he would wait to see how training in the Zilina Stadium went before committing to any decision. Lawrence, who wore padding in training on Sunday, spent part of the session away from his team-mates but didn't need any protection on his thigh.
An FAI statement last night confirmed that the Portsmouth man would start if he was given the all-clear by medics today.
Shane Long will definitely replace Kevin Doyle, getting the nod ahead of Andy Keogh. Trapattoni had dithered over a decision between the pair, but feels that the Reading man is more suited to the role normally filled by Doyle.
Yet it's slightly surprising that he has opted to stick with Lawrence, after earlier indicating that he was keen to inject some fresh blood into his starting XI.
"It's important to be fresh, and to begin with two changes is important," said Trap. "I think the rhythm will be better and I am sure we will have a good reaction."
Lawrence (28) shone in the campaign opener in Armenia, but perhaps could have offered more defensive support to Paul Green and Glenn Whelan on Friday. The midfield was exposed in that game, and Trapattoni will be looking for the overall unit to be more compact this evening.
Long can drop back to help out but Robbie Keane hopes that his prospective strike partner will cause damage in opposition territory, believing that that Slovakian defence might make the mistake of judging the Tipperary man on his size -- the 23-year-old is deceptively strong in the air.
"Kevin's a massive loss for us, and since he's come into the set-up, he's been fantastic," said the Spurs skipper about Doyle's absence with a knee problem. "But Shane was fantastic on Friday. He doesn't look the tallest but he's got a great leap and, in that respect, he's similar to Kevin."
Meanwhile, Keane has angrily denied suggestions that he rowed with his Spurs manager Harry Redknapp in the dressing-room after the recent defeat to West Ham. Reports in the UK said that the pair clashed over a chance that the Irish skipper failed to convert.
The 30-year-old insists that any such claims are 'a zillion per cent false'.