Spain v Republic of Ireland preview
Both teams looking for first win, defeat would send Irish out
Last Updated: 14/06/12 7:47am
The Republic of Ireland are preparing to face Spain in Gdansk on Thursday knowing a defeat would send them tumbling out of Euro 2012.
The 3-1 defeat to Croatia in Poznan on Sunday was a bitter blow to Irish hopes as that arguably represented their best chance of claiming three points in Group C, given Italy lurk after Spain in their final group match.
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni is under pressure to make changes to his starting line-up following Sunday's defeat, their first in 14 matches.
The 73-year-old is unlikely to make any dramatic alternations to his side though, choosing instead to stick to his tried and trusted players.
With just two wins from 14 previous games against La Roja - who in turn are unbeaten in their last 15 competitive matches - Ireland go into the game as huge underdogs.
However, striker Robbie Keane remains confident that his side can spring a surprise against the world and European champions, despite the intimidating odds.
"We know it's going to be a tough task on Thursday," said the LA Galaxy striker. "After all, they are one of the best teams in the world but there's no reason why we can't get something out of the game.
"In any case it's very difficult as a player to go into a game thinking you just want a point. But it wouldn't be the end of the world if we did."
Over in the Spain camp, midfielder Sergio Busquets has defended coach Vicente del Bosque's decision to play without any recognised strikers in their 1-1 draw against Italy on Sunday.
Despite having Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Torres and Fernando Llorente at his disposal, del Bosque opted to play with six midfielders, giving the likes of David Silva and Cesc Fabregas licence to roam forward.
It was one of those forward runs that led to the equaliser against the Azzurri, Barcelona midfielder Fabregas slotting home from Silva's pinpoint pass.
Del Bosque has hinted that he may stick with the formation against the Irish, with Busquets fully behind his manager's decision.
"The centre of our midfield isn't overcrowded," insisted the 23-year-old. "it's based on having players with a good touch in the centre of the field and seeking to gain an advantage like that.
"Moreover, Spain have been playing that way for four years.
"I think there is a lack of patience shown when Spanish international football is being analysed. That wasn't just anyone we drew against - it was a very strong Italy side.
"But if we don't win, there always seems to be a 'but' from somebody or other. It's precisely what happened in the World Cup."
Trapattoni is unlikely to promote Sunderland winger James McClean to the starting line-up, despite a clamour from the fans for his inclusion.
Strikers Jonathan Walters and Simon Cox are pushing for a recall though after impressive displays from the bench on Sunday.
Midfielder Darron Gibson is also in contention after recovering from a thigh injury. Richard Dunne is ok to play after sitting out training on Tuesday with blistered feet.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque looks likely to stick with his controversial 4-6-0 formation, with Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas taking turns to push on beyond the midfield.
European Championships Group A
European Championships Group B
European Championships Group C
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European Championships Group D
Spain v Rep of Ireland
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