Sport Soccer

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Long and Keogh to start up front against Italians

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Ireland are back on their travels again today, catching an early-morning flight to Belgium for tomorrow's friendly with Italy in Liege.

Giovanni Trapattoni will be without five of the squad who took the three points from Macedonia on Saturday evening.

Shay Given and Kevin Kilbane have been given permission to start their coaching badges this week, although the former would have missed out through his groin problem anyway. John O'Shea has been allowed to leave the camp to join his wife, who is expecting a baby, while Robbie Keane and Keith Fahey are both injured. Fahey has failed to shake off a knee problem.

Spartak Moscow winger Aiden McGeady was given the option of returning to his club -- who have a league game next weekend -- but he has opted to stick around, while Stephen Hunt (Achilles) and Glenn Whelan (ankle) could also have skipped, but intend to play through the pain barrier.

Millwall's David Forde will start in goal, while Trapattoni intends to reshuffle his front line, with Shane Long and Andy Keogh set to form a partnership. Simon Cox is expected to feature as a sub.

"Stephen Hunt has run too much," said Trapattoni yesterday. "He need one day's rest. Maybe he start, or stay on bench. I can play Liam Lawrence, I can play Seamus Coleman.

"Glenn Whelan has an ankle problem. The doctor said to be careful, and he said he would stay with us. They show me they want to stay."

Sean St Ledger will step in for O'Shea in central defence, although Darren O'Dea is a doubt, which might open the door for Paul McShane.

Trapattoni will decide the identity of his captain later today, with Keith Andrews, Stephen Kelly and Whelan in the frame. He expects Italy to be close to full strength.

They cruised to a 3-0 win over Estonia on Friday, and their coach Cesare Prandelli has paid a warm tribute to Trapattoni. "He's in a league of his own, there's no comparison," said Prandelli.

"He'll give me some advice -- he was one of the first to call me when I accepted this job."

Irish Independent

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