Trap trusts players to deliver
Giovanni Trapattoni has urged his Republic of Ireland players to believe as they head into a potentially decisive World Cup double-header.
Ireland currently lie in fourth place in qualifying Group C, but locked together on 11 points with second-placed Austria and Sweden in third, with leaders Germany five points clear.
The Swedes visit the Aviva Stadium on Friday night with the Austrians awaiting the Republic in Vienna four days later, and Trapattoni knows that by the time the final whistle sounds at the Ernst Happel Stadion, his team's fate could have been all but decided one way or the other.
The 74-year-old said: "These two games for us will be very, very important. I have said to the players, we must have trust and believe in our possibilities.
"We have four very, very important days, but we must believe. We are the same in the table. We could be ahead of Austria in second place.
"We are the same in the table and only with our mentality and attitude and belief can we achieve this."
Trapattoni's men could, and indeed probably should, have been sitting in second place after heading into injury time in the home clash with Austria in March leading 2-1.
However, David Alaba's 93rd-minute equaliser snatched victory from their grasp and dealt their hopes of clinching a play-off berth a significant blow.
Trapattoni, for whom the "little details" of football are paramount, was furious at the way his side had squandered possession in the Austrian half to hand the visitors the chance to break and ultimately equalise.
However, he insisted he did not direct his anger towards the players afterwards as that would have been counter-productive.
He said: "After the last game against Austria, I could have been angry, but in the dressing room I was not angry because I must give them trust and confidence.
"It was a silly mistake. I spoke with the players who lost the ball before we conceded the goal, but I have to give them confidence because with the young, you must give them trust and also advice."
Trapattoni's team has undergone a significant overhaul since a traumatic Euro 2012 finals campaign with stalwarts Shay Given and Damien Duff having retired from international football and Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy among a new generation of players to have forced their way into his plans.
Recent results have been encouraging - since a brutal 6-1 mauling by Germany in Dublin last October, the Republic have played 10 times and lost only twice, to Greece and Spain in friendlies.
That run of fixtures includes a hard-fought 0-0 qualifying draw in Sweden, a 1-1 draw with England at Wembley and a 4-0 thumping of Georgia in Dublin, and Trapattoni will draw upon those positives as he prepares his players for what lies ahead.
He said: "I said this morning to the players, we must trust. I reminded them of the first game against Sweden and the games against England and Georgia.
"We played very, very well, with confidence. I reminded them how we played well. We deserved to win also against Austria but for a silly mistake.
"It's important to show them what has happened on the pitch and what they have deserved. Always I show them what they have done well, and that is important because sometimes I have said we have one, two or three who are still a little bit shy, and they can have more personality from that.
"This is important. In every game, they can increase their personality, their confidence and their trust. Showing them their performances so they can see how they have played, they can be confident because I give them trust and personality."
Bristol City defender Greg Cunningham has been drafted in as cover to the Republic squad, with Stephen Kelly having withdrawn for family reasons and with Marc Wilson nursing an ankle problem picked up in training.
Richard Dunne sat out training on Monday morning to rest after playing 90 minutes for QPR at the weekend, while Robbie Brady and Shane Long were also allowed to preserve aching muscles.
Skipper Robbie Keane and defender Darren O'Dea were due in on trans-Atlantic flights on Monday evening, while Wigan midfielder James McCarthy was given permission to join up late due to the transfer speculation surrounding him.
Meanwhile, Ireland will take the unusual step of training at the Aviva Stadium on Thursday afternoon in an attempt to familiarise themselves with a newly-laid playing surface.