Irish up for Scotland showdown

2015-06-12 09:47
Roy Keane (Getty Images)

Dublin - Roy Keane has no doubts the Republic of Ireland can deal with the pressure in Saturday's crunch Euro 2016 qualifier against Scotland in Dublin.

Martin O'Neill's fourth placed team head into the game two points behind third placed Scotland, knowing that defeat would all but rule them out of the fight for an automatic qualification place in next year's finals in France.

Scotland emerged victorious when the sides met last November, with Shaun Maloney's goal the difference in the Group D tie at Celtic Park.

The defeat shook an Ireland side that had travelled to Glasgow in confident mood following a 1-1 draw away to world champions Germany.

But with the return of experienced players like Marc Wilson, Glenn Whelan, Wes Hoolahan and James McCarthy, who all missed that last encounter, Ireland assistant manager Keane is positive his players will make amends in the must-win clash.

"I think the nature of international football is that you'll always go into a game missing some players, and you have to get on with the job," he said.

"We've lost Harry (Arter) this week, but we've got some lads back to fitness and it's just getting the balance right and getting the team selection.

"You can't make excuses for the last game that players weren't available, that's just the nature of the game.

"That's the disadvantage of international football, you can turn up and four, five or six lads might be missing.

"The mindset always has to be the next game, can we put the few mistakes we made in Scotland right? It'll be a tight game but can we produce that bit of quality?

"Shay (Given), John O'Shea, Robbie (Keane), Glenn Whelan, all these boys...they know the score.

"Then we have a bit of energy with the Seamus Colemans of this world, the (Jeff) Hendricks, (Robbie) Bradys, we've got a good mix."

Ireland captain Robbie Keane, his country's record goalscorer, is a doubt to start on Saturday, thanks to a groin injury he sustained in LA Galaxy's game with Vancouver last weekend.

Southampton's Shane Long is the more likely starting forward, but it is Keane's goalscoring record that makes him an invaluable member of the team, and his namesake believes he will produce if called upon.

"Robbie's a top professional player and if he starts on Saturday I'm sure he won't let us down, he never has," said Roy.

"From a physical point of view, he's trying to get up to match speed. He's only played one 90 minutes in the last couple of months which is not ideal."

Meanwhile, Maloney, Scotland's match-winner against the Irish back in November, is expecting another tough test in Dublin - and he doesn't believe Gordon Strachan's team will be able to capitalise from another set-piece.

It was a well worked routine that saw the Chicago Fire forward find the space to score in Celtic Park, but he's anticipating an even more tense battle at Lansdowne Road.

"I think it will be a similar match on Saturday to the last one, but I can't see a set-piece like that happening again," he claimed.

"There is so much footage on every team nowadays.

"Have we got any more tricks up our sleeves? We haven't actually started working on the set-pieces yet."

Victory on Saturday would put Scotland five points clear of Ireland, and Maloney knows just how big that could be for his side's hopes of making it to a first major tournament finals since the 1998 World Cup.

"In terms of the group and the context of the match, it would be a massive result if we could win," said Maloney.

"We felt the pressure in the home game because we knew it was so important. It's a little bit less this time for us because we are away, but it would be a similarly fantastic feeling to win."

Read more on:    euro 2016  |  robbie keane  |  roy keane  |  soccer

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