Brian Kerr, the Republic of Ireland manager, has insisted that the Chelsea winger Damien Duff is fit and ready to face Bulgaria at Lansdowne Road on Wednesday.
Duff was not involved on Sunday as Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 with their manager, Jose Mourinho, insisting that Duff needs to overcome a "mental block" after recuperating from a dislocated shoulder.
Mourinho allowed Duff to travel to Dublin despite not being involved against United, and said he wanted him to play and be given a chance to overcome his psychological barrier.
Kerr believes Duff is ready for action. "He played a couple of games in pre-season and I think it's only natural that the injury would be in his mind and that he needs a few rough tackles to forget about it," said Kerr.
"He certainly didn't play like it was on his mind in training and no one was going soft on him. Considering we've gone from when it was in the papers that he would definitely miss the first two World Cup games to now wondering, is he fit and ready for a friendly before them, he's making great progress."
With Duff likely to start, Ireland will be close to full strength with Stephen Carr, John O'Shea and Kevin Kilbane - who did not train today - all expected to be involved in tomorrow's session.
"Everyone is looking sharp. A few of the players here needed a break during the summer to recuperate from knocks they picked up last season, and I see the sharpness in them," Kerr said. "This game is our final match before the World Cup qualifiers and it's certainly a case of preparing for those games. We know it's coming up very quickly but I think we have a very good squad here now."
The Scotland manager, Berti Vogts, has been dealt further injury blows ahead of the friendly against Lothar Matthäus's Hungary at Hampden Park on Wednesday.
Christian Dailly has been joined on the sidelines by Steven Caldwell (groin), Jackie McNamara (ankle), Kevin Kyle (hip) and Paul Dickov (Achilles). Vogts could also lose Nigel Quashie, Colin Cameron and Richard Hughes. He has drafted in the Aberdeen captain Russell Ander-son and Rangers striker Steven Thompson. The Celtic midfielder Stephen Pearson and Hearts left-back Jamie McAllister are on standby, with one squad member still to be selected.
Patrick Vieira is scheduled to return to training with Arsenal's first-team squad on Thursday but the manager, Arsène Wenger, will not rush his captain back into action after a thigh injury.
Wenger has given Vieira - along with Thierry Henry and Robert Pires - leave to meet up with the France squad for Wednesday's friendly with Bosnia-Herzegovina in Rennes. Vieira has been appointed captain by the new coach, Raymond Domenech, and Wenger appreciated the importance of his presence in Domenech's first squad, even though he will not play.
Vieira is unlikely to return to Arsenal's starting line-up until the Premiership game at newly promoted Norwich on 28 August but he is more likely to figure in the visit to Fulham a fortnight later, after the break for World Cup qualifying ties.Reuse content