Thursday 12 December 2019

5 things Trap must get from tonight

TONIGHT, in a small stadium in Pistoia, the Irish team present here in Tuscany will get a chance to play a game as a distraction from the training schedule.

Giovanni Trapattoni left his options open yesterday while naming a probable team, indicating there will be a lot of chopping and changing. A local select made up of players from the third and fourth tiers of Italian football will be on the other side.

Here, we look at five things that the Irish boss needs to do tonight in a fixture that kicks off at 8.30 local time (7.30 Irish):

1 Avoid injuries

Top of the list, of course. Trapattoni is sure there will be nobody in the opposing team out to make a name for themselves.

In 2002, Jason McAteer was cut down before the World Cup in a game against a local side from Hiroshima -- and the culprit was former Cameroon international Michel Bilong, a friend of Ireland's first opponents in the competition.

But it is two friends of Trap, Aldo Firicano and Ennio Pellegrini, who are in charge of the opposition side, and they've assured him there will be no hatchet-man behaviour.

Still, two years ago, young defender Shane Duffy nearly died in a training match against the Irish amateur side in a freak collision. Danger can always lurk around the corner.

2 Give Stephen Hunt a game

The Wolves man was unhappy at failing to feature in Saturday's win over Bosnia. Hunt was changed on the sideline and ready to come on when the manager changed his mind.

Hunt was desperate to be involved, particularly with James McClean making such a strong impression; he needs to be allowed release his frustration, and this is an ideal stage.

3 Continue the McClean education

Trapattoni was coy on whether the Derry man would start the fixture, hinting that he might be restricted to a 30-minute cameo.

The Sunderland star is still relatively new to the squad, and any chance to integrate him further must be seized.

4 Mind the special ones

Richard Dunne has to play, with Darren O'Dea joining Paul McShane on the short-term injury list yesterday. O'Dea has a thigh problem, while McShane has a bruised heel.

A cautious approach is still being taken with Sean St Ledger's groin.

Trapattoni failed to mention Robbie Keane in a probable list of striking options, and also intimated that he will be minding Aiden McGeady very carefully.

5 Alter the formation

With nothing to lose, there may be no harm in switching from 4-4-2 at some point, even if it's a vain cry at this stage. Still, Trapattoni suggested on Sunday that he could have another plan in mind for the Spain game, with a school of thought developing that a 4-5-1 is being considered.

He did suggest that Shane Long could be used in a wide role at some stage tonight, which would leave open the option the switch to a hybrid 4-3-3 that is a 4-5-1 when defending. This is the time to try.

IRELAND (probable team) -- Westwood; Foley, Dunne, Kelly, Ward; Hunt, Green, Gibson, Long; Cox, Walters.

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