Keane hails Given as 'the best ever'

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The Independent Football

Petr Cech's face beams out from billboards here and it takes a brave man to suggest that the Czech Republic and Chelsea No 1 has any rivals for the title of best goalkeeper in the world.

But the Republic of Ireland captain, Robbie Keane, has added spice to the build-up to his side's crucial Euro 2008 qualifier tonight by insisting Shay Given's abilities surpass those of Cech. Given had kept three consecutive clean sheets for the Republic prior to Saturday's fine performance in the 2-2 draw in Slovakia.

Keane said: "Cech is one of the best goalkeepers in the world but we are quite lucky in that we have the best in Shay Given. Cech is [in a] different class but Shay Given is one of the best goalkeepers I have ever seen."

Given's night will be made easier by the absence of the Czech talisman Jan Koller, who is suspended. Milan Baros is expected to play.

The Irish stand three points behind the second-placed Czechs and know they need a win to maintain realistic qualification hopes.

But Steve Staunton's men go into the game with the incentive of knowing that victory would be enough to take them above their rivals on head-to-head.

Andy Reid is expected to come in for Stephen Ireland. Reid produced a superb performance in last month's friendly win in Denmark but was on the bench in Bratislava largely due to the pitch. The surface in Prague should be more to his liking.