GIOVANNI Trapattoni received a double boost ahead of next week's crucial European Championship qualifier at home to Russia as Richard Dunne and Keith Andrews are both likely to prove their fitness in time for the Russian visit.
Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier said today that he expects Dunne to regain fitness this week. The defender missed Villa's win over Wolves yesterday with a knee injury but Houllier expects Dunne to be back in the Villa side for next weekend.
"Dunne is making progress and I expect to have him available for our next game against Tottenham," said Houllier.
There was also positive news in the midfield area as Keith Andrews came off the bench to play the last 25 minutes for Blackburn Rovers in their 2-1 win at Blackpool, his first appearance for the season for Blackburn due to a groin injury which forced him to miss Ireland's last two games.
A number of Trapattoni's key men enjoyed their weekend as Aiden McGeady scored his first goal for Spartak Moscow in a Russian league game against Amkar Perm, Cillian Sheridan scored twice for CSKA Sofia while in the Championship, Liam Lawrence (Portsmouth) and Paul Green (Derby County) were also on target.
But there is concern over the fitness of defender Stephen Kelly as he was forced to withdraw less than half an hour into Fulham's game at home to Everton.
He is now a major doubt for the international double header against Russia and Slovakia, a blow as Kelly had been in superb form with Mark Hughes' side this season.
And the door has also opened on a possible return to international action for Steven Reid as Ireland assistant manager Marco Tardelli was at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday to see the Arsenal-West Brom game where Reid, who came on as a sub for the last 20 minutes, was the only Irish player involved.
Reid has not played for his country since the 0-0 draw in Montenegro two years ago and earlier this year, the 29-year-old announced his retirement from the national team. But Tardelli's presence in London for the WBA game could indicate an interest from Trapattoni in coaxing Reid back.