Trapattoni faces tough decisions

Victory for the Republic of Ireland tonight would all but guarantee them a World Cup play-off spot at least and maintain their chances of pipping world champions Italy to automatic qualification, while a draw – the result they have achieved in their last three away games in the campaign, against Montenegro, Italy and Bulgaria – would be a creditable return.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni still has a doubt over Sean St Ledger, who will start alongside Aston Villa's Richard Dunne in central defence if the Preston North End defender suffers no further reaction to the knee injury which has hampered him all week. He trained at the stadium tonight, but if he does not make it, Manchester United's right-back John O'Shea will move into the middle and Fulham's Stephen Kelly will take O'Shea's place.

But it is ahead of them that the Italian has taken perhaps his most difficult decision with the Hull City winger Stephen Hunt likely to start instead of Celtic's in-form Aiden McGeady, with Trapattoni conscious of the threat posed by Cyprus' Efstathios Aloneftis.