Jim Crawford is hoping to continue the good work of his predecessor Stephen Kenny as he takes charge of the Irish under-21 team for the first time.
Crawford (main photo with assistant John O'Shea) is in Pisa where the young Boys in Green are gearing up to face Italy tomorrow afternoon (k/o 4PM Irish time) in a top-of-the-table clash in Group 1 of the European Championship qualifiers.
The Republic of Ireland are top of the group and three points clear of the Italians, who have a game in hand, and the Irish knows how important a positive result could be with just two more games to play after this one.
"We are looking forward to the game. We know just how important this game in terms of the Group but also in terms of our chances of qualifying for the finals tournament," said Crawford.
“We have kept an eye on what has been going on and we will be as prepared as we can be for the game. Our staff have been working hard to provide us with as much information as possible as we can get on the Italian team."
They may have to do some last-minute homework on the Azzurri squad which has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
There have been reports in local media of seven cases of the virus in the Italy camp which has forced the Italian Football Federation to draft in their under-20 squad to fulfil the fixture, just days after their match in Iceland was postponed due to two positive tests in the squad.
While Crawford lost Dara O'Shea and Jason Knight to the senior squad, he has no such concerns with regard to Covid-19.
“Everyone with us is fit and available. Including the staff, we had 34 tests done and 34 came back negative, so there is a lot of credit to the players for following the protocols," said Crawford.
“This game is a great opportunity for us and we have been working hard in training all week. We have some really good players and we want to continue on the good form that we have showed already in this qualifying campaign.”
UEFA Under-21 European Championship Qualifier - Group 1
Italy v Republic of Ireland
Tuesday, October 13
Arena Garibaldi, Pisa
KO 16:00 (Irish Time)
Referee: Krzysztof Jakubik (Poland)
Republic of Ireland squad
Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Rochdale, on loan from Manchester City), Ed McGinty (Sligo Rovers)
Defenders: Nathan Collins (Stoke City), Darragh Leahy (Dundalk), Conor Masterson (Queens Park Rangers), Conor McCarthy (St. Mirren), Danny McNamara (St Johnstone, on loan from Millwall), Lee O’Connor (Tranmere Rovers, on loan from Celtic), Thomas O’Connor (Southampton), Liam Scales (Shamrock Rovers)
Midfielders: Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Will Ferry (Southampton), Daniel Mandroiu (Bohemians), Connor Ronan (Grasshopper Zurich, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), Will Smallbone (Southampton), Jack Taylor (Peterborough United), Danny Grant (Bohemians)
Forwards: Jonathan Afolabi (Dundee, on loan from Celtic), Zach Elbouzedi (Lincoln City), Joshua Kayode (Carlisle United, on loan from Rotherham United), Michael Obafemi (Southampton)
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