Trapattoni tweaks depleted Republic
Giovanni Trapattoni was in bullish mood as he finalised his preparations for tomorrow night's UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier in Macedonia.
After a week or so during which injuries, suspension and cry-offs left him with a depleted squad for the game in Skopje - one the Republic of Ireland really need to win if they are to maintain the pace with Slovakia and Russia at the top of Group B - he was ready for battle as he conducted his pre-match press conference at the Philip II Stadium.
Asked if he stood by his earlier comments that he would be happy with a draw in Macedonia, he replied: "I never said I would take a draw. "Maybe (assistant manager) Marco [Tardelli], not me. I respect my opponent, but I am a manager, not a diplomat. My life until now has been all about results."
That is largely what Trapattoni has done ever since he took on the Ireland job three years ago, taking his team to within a controversial play-off defeat of the FIFA World Cup™ finals in South Africa and guiding them into the thick of a three-horse race for qualification for next summer's European showdown in Poland and the Ukraine.
In the process, he has blooded a series of new players and expanded the number of options at his disposal with the largely previously unheralded Glenn Whelan, for example, now a fixture in his first-choice starting XI.
However, with Richard Dunne suspended and the likes of Kevin Doyle, Damien Duff, Darron Gibson, James McCarthy, Marc Wilson and Jonathan Walters unavailable to him this week, he has had to shuffle his pack.
Skipper Robbie Keane is expected to play despite struggling with a groin problem, but Sean St Ledger was not so fortunate with the 72-year-old Italian unwilling to risk the Preston defender after ten weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury. "For me, it was very, very difficult to decide to leave him [St Ledger] out, but I followed him in training and I thought he was not 100 per cent," Trapattoni said.
"If he played not 100 per cent with this injury, he could have been out until September like Doyle, and that is not only our problem."
Celtic's Darren O'Dea, who made his competitive debut for the Republic in the 2-1 victory over Macedonia at the Aviva Stadium in March, will instead partner John O'Shea in central defence. O'Dea spent last season on loan at Ipswich and having worked closely with him, Trapattoni is surprised he has not forced himself into the reckoning at Parkhead.
"I don't know why he [O'Dea] isn't playing in Scotland," Trapattoni said. For me, he is a strong player. He is a strong defender and he has a very good personality."
If the manager has had to tweak things at the back, he can at least call upon two of his more experienced campaigners on the wings with the in-form Aiden McGeady and the fit-again Stephen Hunt ready to take the game to Macedonia.
Trapattoni said of Hunt: "Sometimes when a player has been missing, he is fresh when he comes back. Against Scotland (last Sunday), he played very well. He was like a terrier, he was everywhere."