Republic of Ireland skipper Robbie Keane is determined to avoid another bout of play-off misery by securing an automatic passage to next summer's Euro 2012 finals.
Los Angeles Galaxy striker Keane will lead his country into battle against Slovakia at the Aviva Stadium on Friday knowing that victory would send them into Tuesday's crunch clash with Russia in Moscow with top spot in Group B very much up for grabs.
Keane said: "Our main aim is to win the group. You don't go into any group and think that you want to finish second. Circumstances change that, but we are here to win the group."
He added: "We don't want to be in those play-offs again - we have been in the play-offs way too many times and it hasn't gone our way on a few occasions."
Ireland, Slovakia and Russia head into the latest round of fixtures locked together on 13 points, and the Republic know they may have to avenge their 3-2 home defeat by the Russians in October if they are to claim top spot for good.
However, they cannot afford to slip up on Friday if they are to run out at the Luzhniki Stadium with their fate still in their own hands.
Keane said: "Every game is a must-win game, especially at this stage, because where we are now, it's important we don't lose any games now.
"These two games are the two toughest that we could face. We go into every game wanting to win, so it will be no different tomorrow, and we will certainly not go into the game thinking about Russia or the games after.
"We are concentrated on tomorrow and focussed on getting three points, that's our main aim."