Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has warned his players to ignore events in Slovakia as they attempt to snatch automatic qualification for Euro 2012.
As Ireland run out in Andorra on October 7, the potentially crucial Group B clash between Slovakia and Russia will be drawing to a close in Zilina.
Should the Slovakians complete a double over Dick Advocaat’s side, that would blow the race for the top wide open once again, while a draw could leave Trapattoni’s side in pole position to clinch their trip to Poland and Ukraine.
However, the 72-year-old Italian knows the Republic would only be able to take advantage of either scenario with a maximum haul from their final two games against the Andorrans and Armenia in Dublin four days later.
Trapattoni said: “It is vital that we keep focused as we reach our final two games of this campaign. We will approach them one game at a time.
“It is also important for us to concentrate on our own results, rather than what is happening in the group. We do not under-estimate any of our opponents.”
The Republic currently lie in second place in the group, two points adrift of Russia, after a disappointing home draw with Slovakia and an heroic backs-to-the-wall stalemate in Moscow earlier this month.
However, Armenia and the Slovakians are only a further point off the pace and two victories seem a must if they are to stand any chance of pipping the Russians to automatic qualification.
Ireland won 1-0 in Armenia in September last year – a result which is looking more impressive the longer the competition progresses – while they enjoyed their most comfortable victory of the campaign to date when they beat Andorra 3-1 at the Aviva Stadium the following month.
Trapattoni today named a 27-man squad for the two games which saw James McCarthy, Jon Walters and Seamus Coleman, but not in-form striker Leon Best, return to the international stage.
Wigan midfielder McCarthy and Stoke striker Walters were left out last month after withdrawing from previous squads, although McCarthy was drafted back into the senior party for the trip to Russia after initially reporting for duty with the Under-21s.
Everton midfielder Coleman was injured last month, but has since returned to action.
Newcastle’s Best had been tipped to win a recall after a fine start to the Barclays Premier League campaign which has brought him three goals, but his wait goes on.
Defender Richard Dunne, who turned in a superb individual display at the Luzhniki Stadium last month, is suspended for the game in Andorra after picking up a second yellow card in Moscow.
But Darren O’Dea deputised ably for Sean St Ledger, who was himself serving a disciplinary ban, against the Russians to further enhance the manager’s faith in him and, with both men available, Trapattoni has cover.
There is a place too for Sunderland’s John O’Shea, who did not travel to Russia after damaging a calf muscle in the Slovakia game.
Squad: Shay Given (Aston Villa), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), David Forde (Millwall), John O’Shea (Sunderland), Kevin Foley (Wolves), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Stephen Ward (Wolves), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Kevin Kilbane (Derby), Sean St Ledger (Leicester), Darren O’Dea (Leeds), Damien Delaney (Ipswich), Glenn Whelan (Stoke), James McCarthy (Wigan), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Keith Andrews (Ipswich) Keith Fahey (Birmingham), Andy Keogh (Leeds), Damien Duff (Fulham), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Stephen Hunt (Wolves), Liam Lawrence (Portsmouth), Robbie Keane (Los Angeles Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Shane Long (West Brom), Simon Cox (West Brom), Jon Walters (Stoke).