Another international week, another Covid-19 crisis, yet this time you get the sense that Ireland manager Stephen Kenny may have welcomed the virus-led distraction ahead of Saturday's clash with Azerbaijan.

The build-up to this World Cup qualifier in Baku began on Monday in Dublin with little other than the arrival of new striker Will Keane the only talking point of note.

With a longer than usual build-up to the only game of note throughout this international window, there was a lot of time to ponder - again - the manager’s abysmal run of results since taking over the national side.

Plenty of time to highlight the fact that the FAI had not come out fully supporting the manager’s vision of taking the team to Euro 2024, while reminding the Irish public that only two points had been accumulated in five games played.

A re-visit to the shock home defeat to Luxembourg, a dissection of how this team were unable to break down an average Azerbaijan side for the guts of 45 minutes at the Aviva, when the visitors were essentially camped in their own box defending an unlikely lead, pilfered on the stroke of half-time.

Monday’s interviews with Gavin Bazunu, Chiedozie Ogbene and Jamie McGrath filled many a column inch, with intriguing anecdotes and interesting insights, however, it was Tuesday afternoon when the week changed, changed utterly.

Enter Callum Robinson.

The first half of the session proved a jovial affair with the returning frontman talking with enthusiasm about his preferred position, the enjoyment of taking training sessions with Stephen Kenny and his backroom team, and watching the Portugal game from afar.

Robinson, of course, missed out on that almost famous night on the Algarve coast, as he was self-isolating due to his second stint of Covid, and naturally enough, the conversation then got a touch more serious - and a lot more sensitive.

Kenny was next in, as the revelations reverberated about the media room in Abbotstown, and the conversation has since continued from FAI headquarters in west Dublin to the far-flung depths of eastern Europe where Ireland were getting ready to train at the stadium on the eve of the match.

Callum Robinson has an infectious personality according to manager Stephen Kenny

Little talk of the actual game at the pre-match press conference, and while the media have gone into overdrive over vaccination self-determination, the manager claims that the team have enjoyed a great week preparing for the match, making the most of the extra days’ training.

Even taking the long-haul flight and three-hour time difference into account, the team appear in fine fettle heading into the game that will hopefully hand the manager his first competitive victory, now 13 months on from his opening game.

Kenny has spoken about learning lessons from the reverse fixture in Dublin and turning draws into victories, however, his side will need to be a lot more clinical in the final third to come away with the points.

The manager threw down the gauntlet to the new generation in that home clash and put out an exciting forward unit of Adam Idah, Aaron Connolly and Troy Parrott - the trio charged with finally calling time on the nations dearth of goals.

And those first 15 minutes at the Lansdowne Road arena showed exactly what this new Ireland were capable of, as some exceptional play led to a host of goalscoring chances.

Something ventured yet nothing gained, as Ireland then proved over the subsequent 70-odd minutes that 'Project Kenny' was still very much a work in progress.

A goal out of nothing just before the break resulted in Ireland pushing the panic button way too early, as the team came flying out in the second half.

Yet the performance was lacking both composure and creativity, and as the minutes ticked away, the planned victory march soon turned into an exercise in damage limitation.

There is real optimism heading into tonight’s game, however, as the squad are buoyed by the obvious advances of the September window, where Ronaldo et al were given a real shock, before the second-half performance against Serbia brought back the Lansdowne Roar, which has been dormant for several years, as a result of Covid closures and Danish pastings.

"One of my roles is to set the tempo and the intensity," said goalkeeper Bazunu earlier in the week.

The young shot-stopper has a refreshing knowledge of both the game and the way the manager wants to play, adding that the team "noticed when we have a lot more of the ball [against weaker teams], we have struggled with that".

"When teams are putting 11 men behind the ball, sometimes it can get start to get a bit slow and laboured," added Bazunu.

"Just increasing the intensity and tempo - I think that is one of the most important things when you have a team that is just looking to sit back and break."

And it will be an attack-minded XI sent into battle in Baku, with Bazunu, leading from the back, playing a high line and effectively sweeping up behind the advanced three in defence.

Shane Duffy, John Egan and Andrew Omobamidele should make up that particular unit, with Matt Doherty patrolling the right flank in the absence of the injured Seamus Coleman.

Enda Stevens is expected to slot back into the side and operate the left flank, while in midfield, the manager has options whether to go with a two or a three.

Josh Cullen appears to be an automatic starter and Jeff Hendrick should also be asked to sit in the middle of the park following two of his best displays in recent years against Portugal and Serbia.

Jason Knight would have been fancied to start the game, however, the Derby County youngster has only recently returned from injury, while he was also ill upon arrival in Baku, so the manager might turn, once more, to Jamie McGrath to make up the three and link play with the two-man forward line.

Adam Idah was the other player who suffered an illness in the build-up to this game, however, the young Corkonian has been so impressive throughout the campaign that Kenny will surely give him every chance to prove his fitness.

Such is the demand for goals in this game, Kenny brought eight forwards to Baku, and while new recruit Keane is unlikely to start, he could well be thrown into the mix if something needs to happen in the last 20.

Likewise, Ogbene proved in Hungary at the start of the summer than he can cause chaos in the final third, and will also be a serious option from the bench.

But for the week that was, it seems nigh on impossible that Robinson will not start the game alongside Idah this evening.

A player singled out as one of the key men in the squad when Kenny took over the reins as Ireland manager, and having been in the spotlight all week, there is no better opportunity to finally change the conversation.

Follow Azerbaijan v Republic of Ireland via our liveblog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ 2 and the RTÉ Player, or listen to commentary on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport.