Sport Soccer

Sunday 27 May 2018

Trap to go with same starting XI as Keane awaits scan results

Giovanni Trapattoni is pleased with the attitude and balance of his Ireland side
Giovanni Trapattoni is pleased with the attitude and balance of his Ireland side

Damian Spellman

Skipper Robbie Keane was today anxiously awaiting the outcome of a scan on his calf as the Republic of Ireland prepared for their World Cup qualifier showdown with Austria.

The 32-year-old is in line to win his 124th senior cap at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday evening, but only if he is given the go-ahead to play after suffering an injury during the creditable 0-0 draw in Sweden on Friday evening.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni, however, is hopeful that his captain, Ireland's leading international goalscorer with 54, will be fit and ready to play again.

The Italian said: "Robbie is having a scan on his calf. He has a little bit of pain, but the scan will clarify the situation. I think he can play, but we will wait for the decision after this scan."

Keane freely admits he has played for much of his career carrying niggling injuries, and he will be desperate to be involved in a game which could have a major bearing on Ireland's hopes of making it to the finals in Brazil next summer.

The deserved point with which Trapattoni's men returned from Stockholm kept them firmly in the race for second place in Group C, although they dropped to fourth place as a result of Austria's 6-0 demolition of the Faroe Islands.

However, with the Swedes not in action on Tuesday evening, victory over the Austrians would leave the Republic in possession, for the time being at least, of the runners-up spot, and no one within the camp is underestimating the importance of the fixture.

Asked if he would field the same team at the Aviva Stadium as he did at the Friends Arena, Trapattoni said, somewhat coyly: "Ninety-nine per cent, maybe.

"Obviously there is the scan for Robbie Keane - Robbie played very, very well and his experience has been important. I think he can be ready.

"But this game, we must think about all our possibilities. It's a game we want to win, but also those who don't start, the one or two or three changes (substitutions) will be very, very important."

Trapattoni delivered something of a curve ball in the run-up to the Sweden game when he initially named winger Robbie Brady in his team, and then revealed he was not certain he would in fact start - an attempt, he said, to spark a reaction from the Hull midfielder.

In the event, the 74-year-old opted for a double change when Glenn Whelan's ankle injury prevented him from taking part, replacing the Stoke man with the more creative James McCarthy and asking Jon Walters to patrol the right side of midfield instead.

Having already placed himself in the firing line by informing striker Kevin Doyle he would not be in the squad only by text, Trapattoni courted further criticism with his treatment of Brady, but was swift to attempt to clarify his decision today.

He said: "Reporters in the world are good at writing pieces, but I never said he was confused, what I wanted to say was that I wanted to stimulate him psychologically, I want to see him stronger psychologically.

"But I never said - or I didn't mean to say - that he was confused. The headlines then are a different story.

"There is no problem with Robbie. The player is ready, there is no problem. I know.

"There are situations when a manager wants to stimulate players. I said I wanted to see on the pitch what his condition was. He is not confused."

Whelan returned to training today and is expected to resume against Austria, but as well as Keane, Trapattoni has a doubt over Walters, who has a back problem.

The manager went into the game in Stockholm knowing defeat might have signalled an end to his reign amid speculation that former Reading boss Brian McDermott is already being lined up as his replacement, but emerged from it, as he has done so often during his time at the helm to date, having been largely vindicated.

His decision to prefer 33-year-old David Forde to the action-starved Keiren Westwood paid off, as did the selections of Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark and Marc Wilson in a new-look defence and Paul Green, James McClean, McCarthy and Walters in midfield.

Trapattoni said: "Our young players, if they are here, it's because I trust them and I have confidence in them in the first place.

"We need to give them a chance to improve in every game. Every game improves their personality."


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