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Hapal tries to be positive about Lobotka status

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Pavel Hapal

Pavel Hapal

UEFA via Getty Images

Pavel Hapal

Complications from Covid-19 and injury are causing havoc in the Slovakia camp ahead of Thursday's Euro 2020 play-off against Ireland as the home side are still awaiting word on whether key man Stanislav Lobotka will be allowed leave quarantine in Italy and travel to Bratislava.

Slovakia coach Pavel Hapal has been forced into one change, with veteran striker Michal Duris withdrawing due to injury.

The Cyprus-based forward, who scored in last month's 1-1 draw in Israel, has been replaced by the inexperienced Pavol Safranko, who plays his club football in Romania.

Covid

Former Newcastle United defender Lubomir Satka looks certain to miss out, due to Covid.

An outbreak of the virus at his Polish side, Lech Poznan, has forced the club to place the entire squad in quarantine for five days, as the Covid situation in Polish football has caused severe disruption to the league there with a number of postponements last weekend, and Hapal does not expect Satka to be available.

But the status of Napoli midfielder Lobotka, identified by Stephen Kenny as one of the main threats to his side, is a major concern for the Slovakia camp.

Two Napoli players have tested positive for Covid-19, with the result that the side were unable to travel to face Juventus on Sunday.

Controversially, a 3-0 win was awarded to Juve because of Napoli's no-show, that decision angering Napoli as the club argued that local restrictions prevented them from travelling if they had positive tests for Covid in their squad.

Slovakia trained yesterday but boss Hapal was hopeful, more than certain, that Lobotka would be available, as local restrictions in Naples may bar Lobotka from leaving the region.

"We are trying to solve the situation with Stan Lobotka," Hapal said last night.

"He has already had two negative tests and one more test awaits him. We believe that we will get him from Naples to Slovakia."

Kenny has name-checked Lobotka (25) a number of times in the build-up to Thursday.

Dynamic

"Lobotka is so dynamic with the ball. He is a very unusual player and a very interesting player," Kenny said.

"Most central midfield get the ball and pass, get it and pass, play left, play right and go. Lobotka gets it and runs with it all the time."

US-based midfielder Albert Rusnak says he will draw on his knowledge of Irish players from his time at Manchester City to aid his side's efforts.

"I grew up in England so I know what to expect, there will be a lot of individual battles and they will rely more on physique than technique. It won't be an easy game, one mistake could decide it," he said.