The Azzurri Coach Marcello Lippi has made it clear that his team is in Dublin to win. Italy will not be playing for the draw and are intent on tying up qualification for the World Cup at Croke Park on Saturday. Lippi’s last two World Cup qualifiers have ended in 2-0 victories away to Georgia and at home to Bulgaria. Sitting top of their group – ahead of Ireland by four points – the wily old fox of Italian football will have no intention of heading to Parma next week to face Cyprus in need of a win. Ireland’s Italian Boss Giovanni Trapattoni will not be singing from the same sheet as his countrymen. A win against his home nation will take the Irish clear of Bulgaria, who lie in third place, and only one point behind the Italians, although the visit of Montenegro in their final game on Wednesday will be a tougher task than that which faces the Azzurri on the same night. The one definite about this game is that both teams will be looking for the three points in what will be a lively affair.
Republic of Ireland
Giovanni Trapattoni has a major problem in his team selection for the game against Italy. Damien Duff, Steven Reid and Darron Gibson are all out with injury leaving the midfield looking sparse. Also missing is Middlesbrough’s on-loan Caleb Folan. Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Aiden McGeady and Stephen Hunt are all likely to be called in to start on Saturday. The ever dependable Shay Given will unquestionably start between the sticks whilst the back four will most likely include John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St. Ledger and Paul McShane. Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle will make up the front two, and it is these two natural goal scorers who Trapattoni will be looking at to trouble the Italian defence. Trapattoni has always been capable of pulling off incredible results and the task in front of him will need an amazing performance, however, it is questionable if Ireland’s midfield is capable of competing with their Azzurri counterparts.
4 O’Shea – 5 Dunne – 2 St. Ledger – 6 McShane
46 McGeady – 17 Andrews – 6 Whelan – 10 Hunt
10 Keane – 29 Doyle
One man who will not be starting is Antonio Cassano. The Italian Coach will now not even take questions relating to the Sampdoria hit man. The strikers have changed frequently over the past few qualifiers, and with Antonio Di Natale scoring nine goals in seven games so far this term we could yet see another change up-front. Buffon will start in goal with the back four having to be altered due to a suspension for veteran captain Fabio Cannavaro. Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Grosso, Gianluca Zambrotta and Nicola Legrottaglie are likely to make up the numbers in defence whilst the midfield could also see a one crucial omission. Claudio Marchisio is struggling with a knee injury that could see him replaced by Simone Pepe.
2 Zambrotta – 4 Chiellini – 13 Legrottaglie – 3 Grosso
16 Pepe – 6 De Rossi – 10 Pirlo – 7 Camoranesi
9 Gilardino – 11 Iaquinta
This is the clash of the two age old Italian masters. Both have had, and still have, their critics but at the same time they have in common an ability to produce results when it matters. It is not shock then to find Lippi being more than aware of his fellow Italian and no surprise that he is going all out to win the game. The Azzurri are expected to qualify at Croke Park and with a point being enough to ensure this occurs, it seems that this is the likely outcome. Although Lippi has said that he would not mind if it needed the home game against Cyprus to secure qualification, this will not be acceptable to the Italian media or public. It is true that Trapattoni is hampered by injuries, but he will not accept that he is just going to be the host of Italy’s World Cup qualification party, in truth it is quite the opposite, he is here to ruin it.