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Bullish Weiss welcomes return of key man Stoch

In what is emerging as a group of unexpected peril, Slovakia's gruff manager Vladimir Weiss declared that the talismanic Miroslav Stoch, who limped out of the Armenia game last Friday, will be available to start in Zilina this evening.

Weiss confidently declared that there will be a loser -- but that it would not be his side, whose inconsistent start to this qualifying campaign has seen them oscillate between victory in Moscow and defeat in Yerevan.

Stoch was the goalscorer in the side's stunning 1-0 success in Moscow and, allied to playmaker Marek Hamsik, may pose the most significant threat to Ireland, especially as, like the Russians, they deploy a three-man central midfield.

"What we gained against Russia, we lost against Armenia," said Weiss, receiving an easier ride from the local press than his opposition manager from the Irish contingent. "That game was a loss but before that we won five matches in qualification in a row so I don't believe tomorrow we are going to lose, because we have never lost two qualifiers in a row.

"We respect Ireland and I truly admire and look up to Giovanni Trapattoni. The Ireland team are a great team with a great spirit, but I believe in the line-up I've chosen and I'm counting on them for tomorrow's match.

"I believe one team is going to lose and I believe it's not going to be us. But if there is a team that loses, I don't expect that it would mean the end of the qualification hopes for the loser.

"We have different expectations compared to two years ago, but we have grown accustomed to that new situation and we are learning to cope with that. Our defeats are in the past, it will be tough for both teams tonight."

Slovakia are without striker Robert Vittek, scorer of four goals at the World Cup in South Africa, and suspended defender Martin Skrtel.

Irish Independent