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Trapattoni future on the line in Euro qualifiers
Giovanni Trapattoni is fully aware that his future is on the line when Ireland face Slovakia in a Euro 2012 Group B qualifier in Dublin on Friday night, and Russia, in Moscow, on Tuesday.
Ireland welcome Vladimir Weiss' Slovakia to Lansdowne Road with both sides sharing top spot in Group B with 13 points, along with Russia.
Trapattoni has been in charge since 2008, and is coming toward the end of his second attempt to lead the country to a major tournament.
Cruelly denied by France, and Thierry Henry, in the controversial playoff for last year's World Cup, Trapattoni faces renewed pressure to secure qualification for Euro 2012.
With an annual salary of around ?1.8m, half of which is supplemented by an Irish businessman, Trapattoni is not cheap.
And while he is keen to stay on and endeavour to bring Ireland to the spiritual home of football - Brazil's World Cup of 2014, the Football Association of Ireland may not be in a position to offer him the contract he desires should they fail to qualify for next summer's tournament.
"I am conscious it is very important," Trapattoni admitted this week in Dublin.
"I want to achieve qualification for our prestige because, without being arrogant, I think we deserved also to go to South Africa.
"We are conscious that we deserve also to qualify in this new situation. We are conscious we have improved the new generation of players and I would like to continue (with them) but I understand also what the responsibilities are.
"I think our job until now was good enough. It is important when people believe our jobs, understand our commitment to our job and when we are perceived as somebody who has done well and can continue the job.
"It's important, we can say until now we have done well and we can also improve again."
A scoreless draw with Croatia in August ensured Ireland maintained a record of just one defeat in 2011, with six victories, including crucial wins over Group B rivals Macedonia both home and away.
An understrength Ireland beat Italy in a friendly in Belgium in June to ensure an upbeat summer for the tightly knit squad, and the veteran boss hopes his men can continue their winning habit.
"This first game against Slovakia is important, because we need the victory," he said.
"We can have confidence following our games against Italy, Macedonia, the Four Nations tournament and also Croatia.
"Croatia was a good test and now we begin again with a very strong game. Now against Slovakia and against Russia I think we need to start with the winning mentality because I think we can win."
Assistant manager Marco Tardelli admitted the pair might be pleased with a four point return from the double header, and with Ireland's final two games in October against Andorra (away) and Armenia (home), that tally may well be enough to see them into their first major tournament since the 2002 World Cup.
A near full-strength side is at Trapattoni's disposal, with Shay Given certain to recover from a slight injury worry and skipper Robbie Keane set for his first appearance since joining MLS side LA Galaxy.
Kevin Kilbane, who is hoping to make his 66th consecutive competitive appearance, remains a doubt at left back with Wolves' Stephen Ward ready to deputise.
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