No final decision has yet been made on a replacement for Aiden McGeady, with James McClean still very much in contention for a starting berth.
How Pilkington continues to fare in training this week will be a big factor, especially given his lack of game time at Norwich this season. But Tardelli was at pains to remind everyone yesterday that Trapattoni did not hesitate to blood Sean St Ledger in a World Cup qualifier away to Bulgaria in 2009 after the defender had made just one friendly appearance for his country.
“If the player is a player, they can play,” was how Tardelli put it after training in Malahide. “I know Anthony Pilkington well because I follow him many times and I am very happy now to know him face to face because we called him up five times. I think he is a good player. He can play in the midfield, he can play left, sometimes he scores a goal, sometimes he can take the free-kick — he’s like a new player for us. McGeady is a good player for us and we are very unhappy because he is not here. But we have other players and we will try other players. I think McClean for us is an important player but in this moment we have good options.”
Trapattoni has previously spoken about how Pilkington’s availability for Ireland could see the manager going with a 4-3-3 formation. But if the Norwich man is to make his debut on Friday, it looks increasingly likely it will be as part of an orthodox 4-4-2.
“I think against Sweden, we will need to use two strikers,” said Tardelli, who also reiterated captain Robbie Keane’s importance to the cause. Having watched Keane train for the first time yesterday following his arrival from LA, the assistant manager beamed: “He is fit, he is happy to be here. Also physically he has become stronger. Maybe the sun is very important, because his face is happy and when he comes here, it’s good for us. He is good for the young players because he is their leader.”
Tardelli also expressed satisfaction at the presence of another veteran, in the form of a resurgent Richard Dunne. “He is very important for us because he’s a strong player, an old player, has good experience and he can give himself up for the team. I saw him in two or three matches for QPR in the Championship and he is fit. He is very quick and, physically, he is back like last year.”
So, fit for Friday then, but Tardelli was not prepared to say at this early stage if Dunne would be able to recover in time to feature again in Vienna on Tuesday. The Italian was, however, making encouraging noises about Marc Wilson’s recovery from a foot injury in time to start against the Swedes. “I am confident because he told me that [today] maybe he can train but the doctor will decide,” he said. “The bone is not broken, just bruising but not too much. We have other solutions [for Friday], but I am confident for him.”
It wasn’t all sweetness and light for the Italian in sun-splashed Gannon Park, however, mention of Zlatan Ibrahimovic causing his brow to furrow.
“Their best player will be on the pitch and I am very scared about him because he is a very good player,” said Tardelli.
Nor did he seem to be taking too much solace from the fact the Swedish superstar had been distinctly underwhelming when Ireland secured a scoreless draw in Stockholm back in March.
“Ibrahimovic is a player who, if he decides to play, he plays very well and scores goals,” Tardelli said. “Sometimes it can happen that he doesn’t play very well, but I would prefer to have him in my team, very much.
“He is in the top 10 players in the world, he can do everything.”
But Tardelli’s mood lifted again when he moved on to reflect on Ireland’s own netbuster, a player who will be chasing his 60th international goal on Friday.
He said: “Robbie Keane is our good player and it’s normal that Sweden are afraid of him. I hope Robbie Keane can decide the match. I think we need to get four points.”
And how did he see those four points coming? Tardelli’s smile was now fully restored.
“Six points,” he replied, “three against Sweden and three against Austria.”
Meanwhile, the attendance on Friday is due to be swelled by an unusually large travelling support from Scandinavia of 5,000 supporters.
As of yesterday, 44,000 seats in a capacity of just under 51,000 had been accounted for, and with tickets still moving and on sale for the next couple of days, the FAI are predicting a close to full house at the Aviva Stadium for the World Cup qualifier.