We can win in Russia, says bullish Keane as close group heads to wire


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The Independent Football

Robbie Keane insisted that there is "no reason" why the Republic of Ireland cannot win in Moscow tonight, as they head into their final three Euro 2012 qualifiers still competing at the top of Group B.

Slovakia came to Dublin on Friday evening but escaped with a 0-0 draw. Victory would have left the Republic leading the group but poor finishing cost them the game. Instead, they are in second place, ahead of Slovakia on goal difference and two points behind Russia. With relatively easy final games, though, Keane is relaxed ahead of tonight's match.

"There's no reason why we can't [win]," he said yesterday. "We will obviously focus and concentrate everything we have on the Russia game. Our main aim is to get something out of this game, and there's no reason why we can't do that and look forward to the [last] two games then. From now, there are nine points to play for, so there's still a lot that can happen, and we are well aware of that. But our main focus is on hopefully getting three points tomorrow and then we will focus on that."

Giovanni Trapattoni will have much the same team that played on Friday. Sean St Ledger is suspended, so Darren O'Dea will play at centre-back, while an injury to John O'Shea will give a place to Fulham's Stephen Kelly. Shane Long is still out, although Aiden McGeady and Kevin Doyle have both been declared fit. Russia manager Dick Advocaat declared that "it doesn't matter" who is playing for Ireland, as Irish teams are "always difficult to play against".

Northern Ireland are in a harder position after their 1-0 home defeat to Serbia. They are fifth in Group C with a trip to Italy yet to come, and captain Aaron Hughes believes they have no alternative but to win tonight's game in Estonia.

"For the first time ever I have to say this is a must-win game," said the Fulham centre-back. "When you get to this stage in the competition you have to win. We know we've got to... try and be positive but not in a gung-ho way. But if we get to the last 10 minutes, and if it's 0-0, you know you have to throw a bit of caution to the wind."

Sammy Clingan is available after missing Friday's game with a virus. Kyle Lafferty and Pat McCourt remain injured while Jonny and Corry Evans are both suspended.