Northern Ireland plan Italian job
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Northern Ireland are plotting another home upset as they seek to add Italy's name to the list of high-profile footballing nations who have been beaten at Windsor Park.

In recent years the Northern Irish have defeated England and Spain in famous victories at the small stadium, which boasts one of the smallest capacities in international football at just 14,500.

Northern Ireland are hoping their vocal home support can help them deliver another upset on Friday when they take on former world champions Italy in a UEFA Euro 2012 Group C clash.

However, Northern Ireland captain Aaron Hughes has warned his team-mates against complacency as they prepare to face an Italy side entering a period of transition following a disastrous 2010 FIFA World Cup™ campaign.

"There's a great atmosphere at Windsor and we've managed to get some great results in the night games and hopefully that will continue for us."
Northern Ireland midfielder Steve Davis.

"At home over the last few years we've had some really good results," Fulham defender Hughes told the club's official website.

"The England and Spain games will be talked about for years and we beat a lot of good teams that were ranked higher than us at home.

"Our home form is strong and we should go into the game with plenty of confidence. But it would be extremely dangerous to go into the match thinking Italy aren't what they used to be, because the team is full of quality players," said Hughes.

Northern Ireland scored an impressive 1-0 away win over Slovenia in their opening match, a result which leaves them three points behind group leaders Italy with a game in hand.

However, Northern Ireland and Rangers midfielder Steve Davis believes the Slovenia result will count for nothing if they are unable to produce a similar performance against the Italians.

"After the Slovenia result there is optimism, but the players certainly won't get carried away," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"We'll focus on doing everything right and doing everything to our maximum against Italy, otherwise our chances of coming out with a result will decrease.

"There's a great atmosphere at Windsor and we've managed to get some great results in the night games and hopefully that will continue for us, but we can't afford to underestimate Italy.

Italy centre-back Giorgio Chiellini, meanwhile, believes Northern Ireland will be awkward opponents as Cesare Prandelli's side prepare for a double-header starting in Belfast on Friday and finishing against Serbia in Genoa on Tuesday.

"We have to be ready for a sporting battle. Serbia are more technical but they are two equally difficult matches," said Chiellini.