After seven months and three friendlies the Giovanni Trappatoni regime finally get to savour a competitive match.
Ireland take on Georgia tonight in FSV Mainz's stadium in Germany tonight. The match originally due to take place in Georgia was moved after the Football Association of Ireland and FIFA had reservations about the Ireland side travelling to the war torn region.
The game was moved after FIFA requested the Georgian FA to nominate a neutral pitch. Initially the GFA said they had a problem locating a pitch, Croke Park was unavailable due to the All-Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Waterford taking place tomorrow.
The request was given to the GFA some 14 days ago and four days ago they decided to bring the match to the Bruchweg stadium in Mainz.
In Ireland the late date and choice of a small stadium has meant the usual numbers travelling to away matches has been reduced dramatically. The Georgian fans are not known for travelling to away fixtures so this international match could take place in front of a paltry few.
As far as the team are concerned Damien Duff is the only player from the 11 who started against Norway last month to miss out. The Newcastle player has been plagued with injury since he went to Tyneside some two years ago.
Stephen Hunt from Reading comes into the side at Duff's expense. Elsewhere in the side Given returns to goal, the Newcastle player has been in fine form again this season and is one of the countries most important players.
Kevin Kilbane who broke his cheekbone playing for Wigan on Saturday is expected to play what would be his 50th international game in a row. A quite incredible feat for a player regarded by many as one of the hardest and toughest players to play in the Premier League.
Steve Finnan comes in at right full, fresh from a last minute move to Espanyol. Richard Dunne and John O'Shea line out at centre half. John O'Shea will have learned some harsh lessons in the game against Norway and with Steve Bruce's son Alex, on the bench the Manchester United player will have to have a good game to keep his place in Wednesdays game aganst Montenegro.
Steven Reid and Stokes Glen Whelan line out in midfield with Whelan in particular being singledout for praise by Trappatoni in Italy we have a player called Gattusso, he is not a player like Kaka or Pirlo or Del Piero he is Gattusso. He helps the others, for us Glen Whelan is like this..
On the wings Hunt is joined by Celtic's Aiden McGeady. McGeady who has started the season slowly for Celtic has always found the going tough at International level and this game will provide him with his second start in 18 games.
Up front Robbie Keane who still hasn't scored for new club Liverpool will be parternered by the on form Kevin Doyle. Doyle who scored his first competitive hat trick for Reading last weekend is not expected to stay at the club in January as Sunderland and Aston Villa hace been linked with him in recent days.
Ireland will fancy their chances of taking 3pts against the Georgian's in what looks like a tricky fixture. If Ireland do come away with the points, then the optimism and anticipation of making it to South Africa could well be warranted.
For Ireland to even make it to the play-offs 4pts from the next two games are imperitive.
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