Gavin Kilkenny insists the Republic of Ireland are capable of giving their European Under-21 Championship qualifying campaign a major boost by beating both the group's big guns.

Jim Crawford's men welcome Italy to Tallaght Stadium on Friday and Sweden four days later with the Swedes currently topping Group F by a point ahead of the Italians, who have played a game fewer.

Ireland, who also have a game in hand on the leaders, are a further three points behind after last month's disappointing defeat in Montenegro, and know the next two fixtures could be pivotal.

Asked about their target from the double-header, Bournemouth midfielder Kilkenny said: "We haven't spoken about it, but I think we know deep down we need to get something out of it, three points, four points, two wins.

"It's not beyond the realms of possibility to get two wins - we know that would be amazing. We know that we're good enough to play against these teams.

"It's possibly a good thing to have these teams this time because they might come out and give us a new challenge. We've played against teams that sat in, so they'll come on us, they'll probably look at us and - let's be honest - think they're better than us and they can just roll over us.

"We'll take satisfaction from being the underdog and hopefully show them we're good."

Crawford has had to dig deep into his resources during the campaign to date with senior boss Stephen Kenny including the likes of keeper Gavin Bazunu, defender Andrew Omobamidele, midfielder Jason Knight and strikers Adam Idah and Troy Parrott, who are all still eligible to play at Under-21 level, in his squad.

However, Kilkenny is philosophical about that issue.

He said: "They (Italy and Sweden) can probably say the same. They have players who were playing in the Euros who are eligible, and we have loads as well. That's just the way Under-21 football goes."

"We have good squad here, we can't have any excuses, really. We have to beat them on the night."

Watch Republic of Ireland Under-21 v Italy Under-21 live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on Friday. Kick-off is 5.30pm.

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