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Given's misery set to continue

SHAY Given's season of misery at Manchester City will continue tonight. Manager Roberto Mancini says he will stick with Joe Hart in goal for their Europa League tie with Juventus.

Ireland's crucial Euro 2012 qualifier at home to Russia is now only eight days away but Given's lack of match fitness is a source of concern as he has played just one of City's ten games this season, in last week's Carling Cup defeat to West Brom, and the 34-year-old will be left on the bench again tonight as Juve come to Eastlands.

"Because we play the Europa League on Thursday nights we have only two days and two nights to recover, but I always put out the strongest team that I can," says Mancini as he explained his decision to field a strong side against Juve, meaning a bench role for Ireland's No 1.

"It was different in the Carling Cup, but now I can change two or three players. I've got more options. But I always want to put the best team on the pitch. I hope we can do a good job against Juventus and Newcastle," added Mancini, who added some spice to the game against a club side from his native country by claiming that the Premier League in England was stronger than Serie A.

"I think the English championship is better than the Italian," he said. "Juve and City are both new teams. We both need time to establish ourselves."

Given's current status as back-up keeper with his club is just one of the headaches for Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni as he anxiously awaits an injury update on Richard Dunne, who has missed Aston Villa's last two games with a groin injury, while back-up defender Stephen Kelly is also a concern, especially as Kevin Kilbane has failed to start the last four games for Hull City.

Ireland's Champions League competitors had a quiet night last night, as Robbie Keane and John O'Shea could only manage brief appearances for Tottenham and Manchester United as late substitutes while Darron Gibson was left on the bench in Valencia.

There will be one member of Trapattoni's squad in Euro action this evening as Cillian Sheridan, on form after scoring two goals in a league game last weekend, will start for CSKA Sofia at home to Porto in the Europa League.

Meanwhile, Slovakia have included Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel in their 23-man squad for the Euro 2012 clash with Ireland in Zilina in two weeks' time. Coach Vladimir Weiss has picked a strong panel for their games away to Armenia and at home to Ireland, with the manager's son, also named Vladimir Weiss.

The big loss for Slovakia is the absence of Turkish-based striker Robert Vittek, who made headlines by scoring four goals at the World Cup finals last summer.


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