The Republic of Ireland travel to Andorra this Friday knowing that victory is a must if they are to retain hopes of topping Group B.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s men sit two points behind Russia with two games remaining and it would be a huge shock if they do not make the journey back without the three points safely tucked away.
The Irish need maximum points from Friday’s game and the visit of Armenia a week today to guarantee at least a play-off place from the group but if Russia lose in Slovakia on Friday, six points will be enough to secure top spot.
And Ireland look set to have key defender John O’Shea fit for duty in Andorra after he played a full part in this morning’s training session.
The 30-year-old Sunderland man, who arrived at camp carrying a knock, is an important member of the team and with Richard Dunne suspended, the fitness of the experienced O’Shea was a concern.
However, chief Trapattoni could still opt to leave him at right-back and put Sean St Ledger – who is available again after being banned for last month’s 0-0 draw in Russia – with Darren O’Dea in the middle.
James McCarthy, Jon Walters and Seamus Coleman were all recalled to the Republic squad for the Andorra and Armenia ties after McCarthy and Walters were left out of their previous two qualifiers; Coleman is back after injury.
Stoke striker Walters remains an injury doubt though, with his ankle problem continuing to be assessed back at the Britannia Stadium. Goalkeeper Shay Given is expected to be available, however, despite nursing a wrist injury.
For the hosts, the 20:30 kick-off this Friday will be a case of damage limitations after losing all of their eight qualifying games. But after ‘only’ going down 1-0 in Macedonia last time out, Andorra will hope they can go one better this time.