Ireland are facing an injury headache as they prepare to take on Bosnia Herzegovina in their first Euro 2012 warm-up match at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
At least seven of their 23-man squad are struggling for fitness as a hectic domestic season appears to have taken its toll on Giovanni Trapattoni’s side.
Sean St Ledger and Robbie Keane are both doubtful following knocks, while Keith Fahey, Kevin Foley, John O’Shea, Richard Dunne and Shay Given are almost certainly out having not trained all week.
Talismanic keeper Given, Ireland’s record caps holder, has picked up a knee injury while Dunne is suffering abdominal trouble, O’Shea is still nursing an ankle injury, Fahey and St Ledger have groin strains and Foley and Keane have troublesome hamstrings.
It means that Ireland are likely to hand starts to Keiren Westwood in goal, Paul McShane (who was called up from the reserve list on Wednesday) at the back and Darron Gibson in midfield, while James McClean could earn only his second cap on the wing.
Despite these setbacks, Trapattoni will be keen for his patchwork side to continue a run that has seen them go 12 games unbeaten – their last defeat coming in a friendly against World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay more than a year ago.
Bosnia’s visit to the Aviva Stadium will be the first time the two nations have ever met in an international match, so there are no previous meetings to give an indication of how the match might go.
However, Safet Susic’s side only missed out on joining Ireland in the Euro finals after a play-off defeat by Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in November, so they should not be taken lightly.
Edin Dzeko and Asmir Begovic will need no introduction for Ireland’s Premier League stars, while Roma’s Miralem Pjanic and Lazio’s Senad Lulic will be familiar faces for Italian manager Trapattoni.
Despite Bosnia’s A-listers looking dangerous, the Republic are still 4/5 to win the game on Saturday, while the Bosnians are 7/2 outsiders.
But with Ireland’s wearied squad likely to be wrapped in cotton wool and Bosnia having nothing much to play for, a draw could be the best shout in this one.
This suggestion is also backed up by the fact that both of Ireland’s previous two friendlies have ended all square.
At odds of 12/5, customers who use their free £25 bet for joining bwin.com to back a draw will secure a return of £85 if successful.
Recommended bet: Ireland and Bosnia to draw @ 12/5
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