Rep of Ireland v Slovakia preview
The Republic of Ireland host Slovakia in the first of two games which could determine their Euro 2012 fate.
By Ben Collins
Last Updated: 02/09/11 12:24pm
The Republic of Ireland host Slovakia on Friday in the first of two games which could determine their Euro 2012 qualifying fate.
With six games gone, the Republic are still very much in the hunt as they are joint-leaders of Group B with Slovakia and Russia with 13 points.
Their head-to-head records currently put Slovakia top, with the Republic third having lost 3-2 at home to Russia last October before drawing 1-1 in Slovakia four days later.
But positive results at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on Friday, live on Sky Sports HD3, and in Tuesday's game in Russia could put the Republic in pole position with just two qualifiers remaining.
The Irish have failed to reach a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup, controversially denied a place at last summer's World Cup at the hands of Thierry Henry.
Coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who took charge in 2008, had already signed an extension to the end of Ireland's 2012 campaign so this coming week could be the most important of his tenure.
Kilbane, Long out
The Italian named his starting line-up on Thursday and for the first time since November 1999, Kevin Kilbane will miss a competitive international.
The 110-cap veteran has succumbed to a back injury so Wolves' Stephen Ward will take his place at left-back.
Shane Long got the nod ahead of ex-Reading team-mate Kevin Doyle but has since been left out due to a slight calf injury. The new West Brom striker could still travel to Russia, though.
Doyle therefore comes in to partner record marksman Robbie Keane, who insists he is fit to play after flying back following his goalscoring debut for LA Galaxy.
Doyle scored the only goal as the Republic beat Slovakia on their only previous visit to Ireland in March 2007.
Shay Given will win his 115th cap in goal while Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger return in defence after missing the 2-0 win in Macedonia in June. Damien Duff returns on the wing in place of Stephen Hunt.
Republic of Ireland: Given, O'Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward, Duff, Andrews, Whelan, McGeady, Keane, Doyle.