Italy plan to unleash young strikeforce at Republic

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The Independent Football

Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino and Antonio di Natale are all missing for Italy but the Azzurri coach Marcello Lippi still plans to still field an attacking line-up against the Republic of Ireland here. Lippi looks set to start with Giampaolo Pazzini, Giuseppe Rossi and Simone Pepe at the Stadio San Nicola.

Pazzini, who plays for Sampdoria, is expected to earn his first start after scoring on his national team debut away to Montenegro in Saturday's 2-0 win. Rossi, who did not appear in the game at the weekend, is eager to show what he can do in the national team shirt. "If I play, I will try to give my best for the team and do the right thing," the Villarreal striker said.

Victory would give the Group Eight leaders 16 points with four qualifying games remaining. The Azzurri go into the encounter two points clear of Ireland after Giovanni Trapattoni's side were held to a 1-1 draw against Bulgaria at the weekend.

The Italians have reason to be optimistic, having remained unbeaten in their five qualifiers so far and conceding just twice. As long as his team makes use of the talent at their disposal, Rossi believes there should not be any unwanted surprises. "We know it's going to be a difficult game. Ireland is a team that battles and fights but we hope to show our quality and consolidate our position," he said.

However, Lippi has warned his side not to underestimate Ireland, a team coached by the former Italy manager Trapattoni. "Ireland is the only team that can battle with us for the top position," Lippi said. "We cannot evaluate them on the basis of their home draw against Bulgaria at the weekend but rather for what they have been able to do so far in qualifying."

Italy (probable, 4-3-3): Buffon (Juventus); Zambrotta (Milan), Cannavaro (Real Madrid), Chiellini (Juventus), Grosso (Lyons); Palombo (Sampdoria), Pirlo (Milan), De Rossi (Roma); Pepe (Udinese), Pazzini (Sampdoria), Rossi (Villarreal).

Republic of Ireland (probable, 4-4-2): Given (Manchester City); McShane (Sunderland), Dunne (Manchester City), O'Shea (Manchester United), Kilbane (Hull); McGeady (Celtic), Whelan (Stoke), Andrews (Blackburn), S Hunt (Reading); Keane (Tottenham), Doyle (Reading).

Referee: W Stark (Ger).

Group Eight

Republic of Ireland results: Georgia 1 Republic of Ireland 1; Montenegro 0 Republic of Ireland 0; Republic of Ireland 1 Cyprus 0; Republic of Ireland 2 Georgia 1; Republic of Ireland 1 Bulgaria 1.

Remaining fixtures: Tonight Italy (a). 6 June Bulgaria (a). 5 Sept Cyprus (a). 10 Oct Italy (h). 14 Oct Montenegro (h).