Kerr wary of 'skilful' Israelis

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The Independent Football

The Republic of Ireland know the importance of Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Israel - their manager, Brian Kerr, said yesterday that it will shape the destiny of Group Four - but even they may be surprised to see both Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho choosing to take in this match.

The Republic of Ireland know the importance of Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Israel - their manager, Brian Kerr, said yesterday that it will shape the destiny of Group Four - but even they may be surprised to see both Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho choosing to take in this match.

Both are expected to be at the Ramat Gan Stadium here. The Chelsea manager is there ahead of his visit to the Peres Centre for Peace while Abramovich may well take up the invitation from the Russian-Israeli businessman Lev Lebayev. It has added to the frenzied anticipation - 3,000 Irish fans have booked hotel rooms.

Kerr conceded it was a "key match" against a "skilful team" and said that the "edge" - with four countries still in contention - would be "results in the away games". Having earned draws in France and Switzerland, who meet on the same day, Ireland are ideally placed. It has led to premature debate on whether this is the strongest-ever Irish team. But Kerr, whose impressive record stands at two defeats in 25 games, said: "That might not be paying due respect to the players of the sides of the Eighties and early Nineties who were playing for teams in the top three in England."

There is concern about the preparations of Kerr's first-choice strikers, Robbie Keane and Clinton Morrison, given their lack of first-team action at club level, but the Irish have received better news with the goalkeeper Shay Given expected to recover from a hip injury.

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