PARIS (AFP) - The international future of Patrick Vieira could be decided on Thursday when France coach Raymond Domenech names his squad for the World Cup qualifying play-off against Ireland on November 14 and 18.
The 33-year-old Inter Milan defensive midfielder has 107 caps for his country and is nominally the current captain but he has not featured for Les Bleus since a 1-0 friendly defeat at home to Nigeria in June.
"Patrick's playing time means he still can't be called up, but I'm not worried, I've spoken to him on the telephone and we've agreed that he needs to start playing again," said Domenech in October.
The former Arsenal and Juventus man had been struggling with a series of injuries that kept him on the sidelines but he has recently forced his way back into the Inter side.
On October 17 Vieira scored the fourth goal in Inter's 5-0 win over Genoa, while he produced a strong performance and supplied an assist in Sunday's 2-0 victory at Livorno.
"Patrick has been vital for us," said Inter coach Jose Mourinho, whose side have already opened up a seven-point lead at the top of Serie A.
"I think he played his best match for Inter since I've been here. It shows that he feels good and that, if the injuries are behind him, he'll be really important for the team."
Vieira has certainly advanced a strong case for inclusion in Domenech's squad, but France have grown used to playing without him in his absence.
Lassana Diarra of Real Madrid and Jeremy Toulalan of Lyon are Domenech's preferred central midfield partnership and they would appear to have every chance of remaining first-choice should France qualify.
Questions remain. Will Domenech risk unsettling the Diarra-Toulalan axis to accommodate Vieira? Is there any point in calling up Vieira if he won't play? And if Vieira is not called up on Thursday, does that mean that Domenech is prepared to go to South Africa without him in the event of qualification?
Domenech has already been deprived of the services of injured left-back Gael Clichy (back) and winger Franck Ribery (knee), both of whom will miss the two games against Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland.
Bordeaux playmaker Yoann Gourcuff, who scored the opening goal in his side's 2-0 Champions League victory at Bayern Munich on Tuesday, is available again after missing France's last two qualifying matches through injury.
Karim Benzema, on target for Real Madrid in their 1-1 draw at AC Milan on Tuesday, will compete with Andre-Pierre Gignac for the sole striking role in Domenech's customary 4-2-3-1.
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