THE Germans are coming and this time they're bringing their boots.
This afternoon, Giovanni Trapattoni begins preparations for the biggest home game of Ireland's World Cup campaign with major question marks remaining over the health of Richard Dunne.
The Italian is expected to name the 33-year-old in his squad for the visit of Germany on October 12 and the trip to face the Faroe Islands four days later, but he must already be making contingency plans in case Dunne doesn't make it back in time for what is arguably the toughest test of his reign.
Taking on Spain, Italy and Croatia at last summer's European Championships was difficult but, to some extent, the manager had done his job by qualifying in the first place and was thus in bonus territory.
After surviving a near disaster in Astana, the pressure is on to get a result next month but taking the ruthless Germans on without Dunne -- as well as Shay Given and Damien Duff --will be a mammoth task.
Trap's side struggled most when facing the quick-moving Russians in their Euro qualification group and against Spain's passing masters in June. Germany combine both facets in their game and, with Trapattoni seeming reluctant to alter his system, the visitors could really hurt their hosts.
Joachim Loew's team are a consistent force on the international scene and have been semi-finalists or better at every major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. Germany nearly always top their qualifying group and, as a result, Group C looks like a battle between Sweden, Austria and Ireland for second place and a play-off spot.
In that light, taking a point or three against the group favourites could prove the difference, with the Austrians going close on the opening weekend when losing 2-1 to their neighbours.
Ireland's chances may revolve around Dunne's availability. His Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert poured cold water on the prospect of him returning for next week's Premier League meeting with Spurs, meaning he could turn up in Dublin with no matches under his belt after suffering a groin injury at the Euros.
Going up against one of the world's most potent attacks with a central defensive partnership of a Championship player in Sean St Ledger and Darren O'Dea (of the not-so-well-known MLS outfit Toronto FC) will set Trapattoni's heart fluttering.
The italian looks set to pick an extended squad, with Keith Andrews and Keith Fahey being added to those who were involved last time out.
Trapattoni indicated that Andy Keogh could start against the Germans in the wake of the friendly win over Oman, while Robbie Brady and James McClean are likely to be named along with Seamus Coleman and Aiden McGeady for the wing positions.
Andrews and Fahey come back into contention in midfield after missing the near-disaster in Kazakhstan, with Bolton Wanderers man Andrews expected to fight it out with James McCarthy for a starting berth.
The strikers are likely to remain the same as the last time out, with all five -- Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle, Jonathan Walters, Simon Cox and Shane Long -- in form for their clubs and battling hard for the starting spot.
Alex Pearce and Shane Duffy could be on alert in the event that Dunne doesn't make it, but we will know more when Trapattoni gives his all-important update on the Tallaght native's fitness this afternoon.
Probable Squad -- Westwood (Sunderland), Forde (Milwall), Randolph (Motherwell); Dunne (Aston Villa), O'Shea (Sunderland), O'Dea (Toronto), St Ledger (Leicester City), Ward (Wolves), Kelly (Fulham), Wilson (Stoke), McShane (Hull); O'Brien (West Ham), Andrews (Bolton Wanderers), Fahey (Birmingham), Whelan (Stoke), McCarthy (Wigan), Brady (Manchester United), Keogh (Milwall), McClean (Sunderland), McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Coleman (Everton); Cox (Nottingham Forest), Walters (Stoke), Keane (LA Galaxy), Doyle (Wolves), Long (West Brom).