Estonia v Ireland preview, kick off 7:45pm

Giovanni Trapatonni’s Irish side will be looking to bury their last play-off memory for good tomorrow night, when they face Estonia in the first leg of their European Championship Qualifying play off.

Few will forget how Ireland were cruelly denied qualification to the 2010 World Cup by the outstretched arm of Thierry Henry, but the men in green will have the chance to write a new chapter over the next five days should they qualify for Poland and the Ukraine.

The form book would suggest they can feel confident of emerging victorious. Ireland will travel to Le Coq Arena in Tallinn in search of a result against a side that has lost six of their last nine games and failed to score in any of these losses.

However they will likely be missing some key players. John O Shea has been ruled out with a hamstring problem while the striking options were dealt another blow as Leon Best left the squad to attend the birth of his child.

Ireland are already without strikers Shane Long, who failed to recover from a knee injury and Kevin Doyle, suspended following his red card against Armenia.

In their absence either Simon Cox or more likely John Walters will play alongside skipper Robbie Keane in Trapattoni’s favoured 4-4-2 formation although at the time of writing, Trapattoni has named 10 of this starting line, the Italian keeping the players, media and fans all guessing as to who partner Keane.

The backline is as expected with Shay Given marshalled by Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger and Stephen Ward with Stephen Kelly deputising for the injured O’Shea.

The much maligned midfield pair of Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan will start in midfield with Damian Duff and Aiden McGeady supplying the ammunition for the forward line.

The Estonians meanwhile have never managed to qualify for a major competition and will see this as their best chance yet. They are right to be confident as despite their supposed run of poor form have shown that they can win when it counts.

Three victories from their last three qualifying matches, two of those against Northern Ireland, allowed them to sneak second place in Group C ahead of Serbia.

They will head into the game without striker Sergei Zenjov who was injured in the run-up to the match with coach Tarmo Rüütli recalling Joel Lindpere to his squad. The Red Bull midfielder had previously retired from International football but has returned for arguably the most important match in Estonian match.

The footballing public in Estonia will certainly agree with that statement as tickets for the match sold out in just 30 minutes and Ireland can expect to face a raucous and partisan home crowd tonight. If they can weather this and take a result of any sort back to the Aviva they will be confident of going through.

In their current form this appears more than possible. While Ireland under Trapattoni aren’t always pretty to watch they are always difficult to break down.

The statistics bear this out. Ireland are unbeaten in their last nine internationals and have conceded just one goal in that span, against Armenia in their final qualifying match.

In contrast Estonia failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their qualifying games, even conceding in both contests against the Faroe Islands.

Ireland also can boast superiority in the head to head record having defeated Estonia 2-0 on the two previous occasions when they met during the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup.

However, the play offs have traditionally been cruel to Irish teams. Ireland has been involved in six play off encounters for major tournaments but has prevailed just once against Iran in 2002 under Mick McCarthy.

Ireland team: Given, Kelly, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward, McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Keane, Cox or Walters


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