A nine-day wonder would be just the ticket for Charlton

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The Independent Online
Jack Charlton expects the Republic of Ireland to have qualification for next year's European Championship finals as good as confirmed within the next nine days, writes Clive White.

Starting with a win over Liechtenstein in Eschen tonight, the Republic's manager is looking for nothing less than a total of six points from this game and the one tomorrow week against Austria in Dublin to consolidate their position at the head of Group Six.

"If we can beat Liechtenstein and follow up with a win over Austria we will be in a very strong position," Charlton said. "Two victories would leave Austria and Northern Ireland with a lot of ground to make up on Portugal and ourselves."

Charlton is unperturbed by a deficiency in midfield which sees the return of Ronnie Whelan, the former Liverpool player, for his first game since coming on as substitute against Norway in last year's World Cup finals in the United States.

Injuries have deprived the Irish of Roy Keane, Andy Townsend and Ray Houghton in midfield, enabling Whelan to win his 52nd cap, alongside Bolton's Jason McAteer, who is also recalled.

Whelan, now playing at Southend, said: "I never gave up hope of getting back in the Irish midfield. There will be no problem with me linking up with John Sheridan. I feel I've been playing well for my new club this year and I knew there was always the chance of starting this game."

Niall Quinn, whose transfer from Manchester City to Sporting Lisbon will shortly be confirmed, wins his 50th cap in attack alongside John Aldridge. Quinn scored twice in Dublin against Liechtenstein, who were beaten 7- 0 by Austria last month and crashed 8-0 to Portugal just before Christmas.

Houghton is still recovering from a back problem picked up near the end of the season, but it is Townsend's ankle injury which is giving the greater cause for concern and the Aston Villa player must be doubtful for next week's game against Austria.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (v Liechtenstein, European Championship Group Six, Eschen, today): A Kelly (Sheff Utd); G Kelly (Leeds), McGrath (Aston Villa), Babb (Liverpool), Irwin (Manchester Utd), McAteer (Bolton), Sheridan (Sheffield Wed), Whelan (Southend), Staunton (Aston Villa), Quinn (Manchester City), Aldridge (Tranmere).

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