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Clark on mission to defuse Austrian FIREPOWER Defender wary of rivals' strikeforce as Villa star Weimann struggles for start

CIARáN CLARK didn't really need a dossier of information from Giovanni Trapattoni's backroom team to know just how dangerous Austria, Ireland's opponents at Lansdowne Road tonight, can be.

Clark sees every day in training at his club just how good Austrian striker Andreas Weimann is, and yet Weimann struggles to get into the starting XI with the national team, only coming on as second-half sub in their 6-0 win at home to the Faroe Islands on Friday night.

He has scored 11 goals in 30 games for Aston Villa this season and is looking more and more like the kind of player that Villa will struggle to hold onto when the summer transfer window opens up.

"Austria must have some side if a player like Andy can't get into the team and is only a sub," Clark told the Herald.

"Andy is a superb player, he has great speed and is a very, very good finisher. But he also has a very good all-round awareness of the game. Some strikers seem to just hang around the box and wait for things to happen for them, let others do the work, but Andy is very clever. He will come and seek the ball, he won't just wait for things to happen.

"He has shown that in the Premier League on a regular basis this season, with the goals he's scored and the games he has played.

"He will be a handful – but if he gets to play against us. I haven't spoken to Andy in the build-up to the game. I'm sure we'll have a chat tonight during the warm-up or whatever, but if it is the case that Austria can afford to leave a class player like Andy Weimann on the bench, then their other strikers must be pretty decent.

"We have studied Austria a bit but we already know they can score goals. It's up to us now as a team to work hard and prevent them from doing that," added Clark.

"I always say that you can only focus on your own game and not worry too much about the other team but we will do our homework on Austria as a team and not just focus on Andy."

A look through the stats books in the aftermath of Friday's 0-0 draw in Stockholm throws up a few interesting lines. It was Ireland's first clean sheet in a competitive game in eight matches, going back to the Euro 2012 play-off against Estonia. It was also a rare case of Sweden drawing a blank, only the second time they failed to score at home in three years. And also a plus for Irish players, with David Forde (below) keeping a clean sheet on his competitive debut – something that was beyond the capabilities of recent keepers like Keiren Westwood (who conceded on his competitive debut against Macedonia) and Shay Given.

"On a personal level it's great to keep a clean sheet," said Clark.

"The clean sheet means a lot, especially against a top side like Sweden. If you can prevent them from scoring you have given yourself a real platform to go on and win the game. We didn't win it on Friday but the draw is a massive thing for us.

"We go into the game with a high degree of confidence after what happened in Sweden on Friday, we knew that a lot was riding on the game in Stockholm so the fact that we got a draw and a clean sheet is very encouraging.

"Of course we now know what happened in the other games, that the other teams managed to score and it's interesting that Germany scored three and the Austrians scored six at home to the Faroes. We know they can score so we have to try and stop them," added the defender.

Clark is now settled into the Irish back four and has done enough in his games to keep out established members of the squad like Stephen Kelly and Darren O'Dea, while he's even high enough in the pecking order now to suggest that a fully-fit Sean St Ledger would struggle to get back into the side. "I am enjoying the games and I think I am improving with every international I play but I am still learning," Clark conceded.


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