Liam Lawrence is targeting another maximum points haul as the Republic of Ireland face a pivotal week in their Euro 2012 qualifying bid.
The Republic launched their Group B campaign with regulation victories over Armenia and Andorra last month, but will take a significant step-up in class over the next few days when they meet Russia and Slovakia – their main rivals for top spot.
Dick Advocaat’s Russia side will arrive in Dublin for Friday night’s clash at the Aviva Stadium still smarting from their 1-0 reverse at the hands of the Slovakians in Moscow, and a positive result for Giovanni Trapattoni’s men would send them to Zilina next Tuesday knowing they could strike a significant blow in the race for the finals.
Lawrence for one believes all six points are there for the taking.
The 27-year-old Portsmouth midfielder said: “I think we can give anyone a game and we can beat anybody, and I do think that six points is within our reach.
“They are two massive games, especially on Friday. It’s going to be a really tough game, but we have come through these tough games in the past and we have got to again.
“They will be stung a little bit and they will be hurting from that defeat.
“I am not sure they will be looking forward to coming here, so hopefully we can catch them again and we can get the win.”
Not since Jason McAteer’s goal saw off Holland in a World Cup qualifier in September 2001 have Ireland beaten one of the bigger names, although they came desperately close to doing just that when they led Italy 2-1, only to succumb to a stoppage-time equaliser, and were then controversially edged out by France in a play-off during the last campaign.
However, the experiences of those nights have helped to foster a new resolve within the camp that they have nothing to fear whoever they play.
Lawrence said: “That will be put to the test on Friday because they are one of the biggest sides in the world and they have got some fantastic players.
“But it is going to be up to us, it’s on our turf and hopefully we will give them a good game.
“We have learnt from those games in the past and hopefully it will stand us in good stead for Friday because we are going to have to call upon all our experience and everything we have got for these two games.”
Lawrence started both games last month despite heading away on international duty with his move from Stoke to npower Championship Portsmouth still up in the air, and is in line to win his 11th senior cap against Russia.
That could bring him into direct conflict with Arsenal’s Andrey Arshavin as he attempts to provide support for full-back John O’Shea.
Asked how he will deal with the hugely-talented Russian, he said with a smile: “I will just leave him to Josh – that’s his job.
“He [Arshavin] is a fantastic player, he is brilliant. He does it week in, week out and we will certainly have to watch him.
“We will have to double up all over the pitch – but that’s when we are at our best, when we are pressing teams and getting at them and hunting them down.”
On a personal level, Lawrence is simply happy to be back playing regular football, even if it is in the Championship, after finding himself surplus to requirements at the Britannia Stadium, and is confident that will benefit him on the international stage.
He said: “I had to leave Stoke to play regular football, and I feel now I am getting back to the player I was 18 months or a year ago.
“I know you say it’s a lesser league, but I just need to be playing regularly and I will be better when I come to these games now.”