Monday 22 January 2018

Trap gets early edge over Slovakia with inside track on injury doubt Hamsik

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

SLOVAKIA coach Vladimir Weiss last night gave his side's creator-in-chief Marek Hamsik a 50/50 chance of starting this evening's crunch Euro 2012 qualifier.

But it was 1-0 to Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni in the pre-match skirmishes after the Ireland boss earlier revealed, through his Italian sources, that the Napoli midfielder had taken injections in his knee to get through a pre-season clash with Palermo last week. "We hear all the news from Italy," the Italian said.

Hamsik clearly hadn't told his international boss, who expressed surprise when the information was put to him at last night's press conference at the Aviva Stadium.

"You have more information from Italy than we do," he said mystified, before revealing that it would be up to the key attacking midfielder to declare his own fitness ahead of the tonight's Group B clash.

"I always place healthy players on the pitch and if Marek says after training that he is okay, then he will play," he added.

Central midfielder Juraj Kucka is fit to play, but Weiss -- whose son of the same name starts on the right wing -- is without second-choice goalkeeper Marian Kello.

The Slovakian manager might be sweating over his playmaker's fitness, but he is also plotting a route past an Irish defence set for a record-breaking run if they can shut the Slovakians out.

No Irish team has previously kept six clean sheets in succession, with Trapattoni's men currently equal to Jack Charlton's Italia '90 team -- who went five games without conceding in 1989 -- and Mick McCarthy's side in 1996, who matched that feat.

Weiss, however, is confident of breaking the Irish resistance this evening and said his side are here to win.

"It will be very hard," he said. "The Irish team is very good defensively with Richard Dunne and Shay Given. It will be tough, but I think we can score goals.

"Success will be a win. I think we have to fight against their strengths, but we must also play to our strengths as well."

Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel was more downbeat with his assertion that a draw would be good enough for the visitors, who are level with Ireland and Russia at the top of the group.

"I don't think it's a must-win game for us. If we get a draw, that would be fine."

Irish Independent

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