Giovanni Trapattoni will turn to Stoke City striker Jonathon Walters in his Tallinn hour of need on Friday – after Shane Long was ruled out of the Euro 2012 play-offs and Leon Best emerged as a major doubt.
The Ireland boss has admitted that Long will play no part in the European Championship showdown with Estonia while John O’Shea will miss the first leg.
Newcastle striker Best, only called up to the squad last Friday, is a new concern after picking up groin and toe injuries in Saturday’s EPL win over Everton.
Captain Robbie Keane – who starts for the LA Galaxy in the MLS Western Conference final against Real Salt Lake in America tonight – will lead the Irish attack in Friday night’s away game.
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With Kevin Doyle suspended and Shane Long ruled out with a knee injury, Walters is now the favorite, ahead of Simon Cox, to partner Keane in the Baltics.
“Jonathon Walters is more suited to playing up top, ahead of Robbie Keane,” said Trapattoni.
“Keane and Cox are very similar players. It is not impossible to play them together but I think Walters has shown in the past that he can play in that role, in front of Robbie.
“I am happy that Robbie is fit again and playing for his club in America. We will see how he is when he comes to Dublin but it looks good for him. It is very positive that he is fit after his injury.
“It is not so good for Shane Long. It looks like he will miss both games while we are not hopeful about John O’Shea for the first game but he might be okay for the second match in Dublin.”
Best, who will be examined by the Irish team’s medical staff before a final decision is made on his fitness, is also awaiting the arrival of his first child ahead of the game in Estonia.
His Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew revealed: “Leon’s wife is imminent and they are in discussions with the FAI about his travel arrangements.
“He is desperate to play, don’t get me wrong. We have spoken to the manager and spoken to the medical team about maybe a bit of compassion in terms of him staying about because she’s that close, so we will see.”
Trapattoni prepared for his Euro cliffhanger with a visit to another famous cliff face in Clare as he awaits everything Estonia can throw at his side come Friday night.
Fresh from a guided tour of the world famous Cliffs of Moher, the Italian is ready to scale the heights in Tallinn.
“The Cliffs of Moher were an incredible experience – and I have past experience of many cliffs in my career,” laughed the Italian.
“I have been on the edge in football terms many times in my career, as a player and as a coach, but I have always overcome these moments.
“We have a great challenge now against Estonia but we also have a great opportunity to qualify.
“We will go out and attack from the start in Tallinn. I want an away goal and I want my team to show we are not inferior to anyone.”
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