The Republic of Ireland face Sweden in Stockholm on Friday night in a crunch World Cup qualifier.
The build-up to the game has been dominated by the exclusion of the talismanic Kevin Doyle, who has been placed on standby along with Stephen Ward and four others (J. O’ Brien, Meyler, Henderson and Pearce).
It is expected that Trapattoni will. unsurprisingly, name a defensive-minded eleven as he looks to shackle the threat of Paris Saint Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The following is the possible starting eleven that Trapattoni could employ:
1. David Forde. The 33-year-old goalkeeper is expected to make his sixth appearance between the sticks for Trap’s Army. Another big performance is expected from the former Galway United stopper. Excellent against Poland, more of the same in Stockholm on Friday would give Ireland a great chance of escaping with a result.
2. Stephen Kelly. Despite reports of a fractious relationship with Il Trap, Kelly is back in the squad. He could be employed at right-back, as Trap looks to pressure the talented Rasmus Elm and Sebastian Larsson.
3. Marc Wilson. The Stoke defender-come-midfielder could very well perform anywhere across the defence or midfield. However, he should start at left-back, with Trapattoni deciding against Everton’s Seamus Coleman. To the joy of Irish fans up and down the country, Stephen Ward has been left on the standby-list. Following consistently atrocious performance at left-back, Trapattoni has wielded the axe, allowing Wilson to come in at left-back.
4. John O’ Shea. The Sunderland defender will need to put in a big performance if Ireland are to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ola Toivonen. O’ Shea is one of the most experienced players in the Irish squad and even megsed Luis Figo in the Champions League many moons ago. Ibrahimovic should be a doddle.
5. Ciarán Clark. Trapattoni has a selection headache at centre-back. Seán St. Ledger struggling to reach full fitness, he should go with Aston Villa’s Ciarán Clark. Clark has performed well for an inconsistent Villa side this year and an assured display should see him plant a seed in Trapattoni’s mind, as the clock counts down on the international career of the injured Richard Dunne.
6. James McCarthy. Despite being just 22 years of age, McCarthy is vastly experienced and displays great leadership skills week-in week-out for Wigan Athletic in the Premier League. He is the future of Irish football and has the ability to keep the mercurial Kim Kallstrom at bay. Many people will be looking at Ibrahimovic as the main danger. However, Kallstrom has the ability to dominate the game from midfield and McCarthy will have to put it up against the Spartak Moscow star from the first whistle.
7. Wes ‘Hot-Lips’ Hoolahan. Fresh from becoming the first-ever Irish player to score a Premier League goal on St. Patrick’s Day, a big performance is needed if Hoolahan is given the start. It may have taken Trapattoni an age to finally choose the versatile attacking player, but ‘Hot-Lips’ has the ability to unlock the Swedish defence. Trap could play Cox on the wing, but those of us that were at the Euros hope that the Italian has learned from his mistakes.
8. Glenn Whelan. Whelan will join McCarthy in the middle of the park. Whelan does the thankless jobs in the Irish team and another industrious ninety-minutes is needed in Stockholm. If Anders Svensson gets the start, Whelan will need to be at his workman-like best to prevent the Swede from spraying the ball around the park.
9. Jonathan Walters. With Kevin Doyle’s exclusion from the squad, Walters has the chance to make the number nine jersey his own. Walters has been in good form for Stoke and loves a goal, so much so that he even likes to put it in his own net from time to time. The physicality that Walters brings is sure to unease the Swedish defence.
10. Robbie Keane. The LA Galaxy and Republic of Ireland captain divides opinion throughout Ireland. However, there is no denying that he is one of the most potent attackers in international football and his record of 54 international goals in 122 games speaks for itself. When Ireland get that inevitable chance in front of the Sweden goal, let’s hope it falls to Robbo.
11. James McClean. McClean has courted controversy throughout his short career and a big performance is needed if he gets the nod on Friday night. The Sunderland winger is often guilty of disappearing in games and needs to put in a consistent performance against the Swedes. Up against Celtic’s Mikael Lustig, if McClean can get his distribution in order, Ireland have a chance to escape Stockholm with a result.
Substitutes: Shane Long won’t start because of Trapattoni’s policy of not starting the best players at his disposal. His hold-up play and pace off the bench could prove vital if Ireland are desperately clinging onto a result late in the game. Trapattoni’s new love-affair with Conor Sammon, a.k.s. the striker who doesn’t score, should see him make an appearance, with the dazzling Paul Green also making a cameo. A star-studded Ireland squad eh?