A midweek friendly against Greece certainly isn’t the most appealing international fixture, especially with the news that the FAI are to close the top tier of the Aviva Stadium, but Wednesday’s clash with Fernando Santos’ side is an important one for the Boys in Green, something which Giovanni Trapattoni is all too aware of.
The Italian is under pressure to get a positive result in the first game since he was backed by the FAI after the humiliating defeat to Germany just a month ago. The victory four days later in Torshavn may have stabilised a sinking ship but that result wasn't enough to fully erase the memory of the German horror show with indications suggesting many fans will opt to stay at home.
After a light run out on Sunday afternoon, the squad stepped up their preparations for the visit of the Greeks on Monday but there was little indication from management as to which XI will take to the field on Wednesday evening.
Sunderland defender John O’Shea took a full part in training this morning and will skipper the side on Wednesday in the absence of Robbie Keane while Jon Walters and Paul McShane are doubts for the game after sitting out today’s session.
Walters has a knee complaint but Tardelli is confident the Stoke striker will recover in time. “I think it’s ok for the match. I don’t know if he will play in the first or the second half but I think it’s possible.”
The assistant manager was tight-lipped in his after-training briefing and admits they need to take a further look at options tomorrow. “We can change some players as we want to understand these new players some more,” the Italian said. “We think they are good but they must show us that they can stay with us.”
Shane Long partnered Nottingham Forest striker Simon Cox in this morning’s training game and is expected to lead the Irish line against the side ranked 12th in the world but Tardelli admitted he may be deployed on the wing.
“I think Shane Long is a striker and I prefer that he plays striker, but it's possible to play on the left or the right as he is very quick. But if he starts on Wednesday it will be as a striker.”
Aston Villa centre-back Ciaran Clark is expected to partner O’Shea at the heart of the Irish defence while Robbie Brady and James McClean featured on either wing in training.
Norwich City’s Wes Hoolahan is also in contention to start, having played the full 90 minutes of the scoreless draw against Reading at the weekend, though again Tardelli insisted decisions had yet to be finalised.
“I don’t know, we will wait, but it's possible to try (Hoolahan) from the first half, but I don't know at this moment. We wait until Wednesday, or tomorrow with the last training.”
Greece are “a very good team” and will be a “tough test”, he added.
“They have good players, like Samaras, we know Samaras, he played against Barcelona and he played well. It’s a good test for us and a good test for the young players. For them it’s good to play in the training but it’s important to play also in the tough match.”
Trapattoni is expected to name his side on Tuesday afternoon.