Martin O'Neill: We can give Germany problems
Ireland boss believes difficult group has masked improvements in his side
Martin O'Neill thinks Ireland have made genuine progress under his stewardship and says they will not adopt a defeatist attitude for tonight's Aviva Stadium showdown with world champions Germany.
Injuries to Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark, Marc Wilson and Stephen Quinn have weakened the 63-year-old's hand for a game which he was already planning for without the suspended Glenn Whelan and James McClean.
The timing is unfortunate heading into a double-header that could define O'Neill's tenure, although the realistic best-case scenario for Ireland is doing enough to stay ahead of fourth-placed Scotland and secure a spot in next month's play-offs.
Scotland, who are four points behind O'Neill's side, will be out of the picture completely if they lose at home to Poland tonight, a turn of events that would remove the tension from an Ireland week that concludes in Warsaw on Sunday.
But O'Neill says that his Ireland team can make life difficult for the Germans, and believes that the impact of a tricky draw has blurred the perception of his team's performances.
"Do I think we've made progress? Selfishly, I'm going to say that we have, because I absolutely think that," said O'Neill. "It's been a difficult group, with no disrespect to the other ones. (In another group) I think we'd be in a play-off situation with now.
"We've played eight games in a Germany, Scotland, Poland group with 15 points on the board and we're not assured of anything (Ireland could still qualify automatically) and that might tell you something.
"We're facing two of the most difficult games you could possibly imagine.
"Germany is a big game and we have to approach it as positively as we can.
"That suggests some negativity but we'll have chances, no doubt about it. And we have a number of players who can pose Germany problems."