Trapattoni faces defensive temptation

ROME - Coach Giovanni Trapattoni may be tempted to live up to his fame for defensive football when his Ireland side seek to stop Italy running away with their World Cup qualifying group on his return to his homeland on Wednesday. Trapattoni's reputation for catenaccio was cemented during his stint as Italy coach, one of the few failures of a glittering career, when early exits from the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 were blamed on his negative tactics. He denied there was any truth in the claims before the Group Eight qualifier in Bari. "Go and look at the goals my teams have scored and the ones they have conceded and work it out," Trapattoni, who celebrated his 70th birthday on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, told Rai television. "If your team score more goals than the others and concede fewer, there must be something of value, mustn't there?" But he looks unlikely to seek to belie his reputation with a bold attacking display against the world champions, especially after Saturday's disappointing 1-1 draw with Bulgaria in Dublin. Italy took advantage to pull two points clear at the top of the group by beating Montenegro 2-0 away and have the chance of extending the lead to five by winning on Wednesday. LITTLE AMBITION What may have worried Trapattoni more than the result and the group standings is the lack of ambition and creativity exposed at the weekend. Winger Damien Duff, out with a thigh injury, was badly missed as the good football that had put Ireland in the position of being Italy's only real rivals in the group evaporated. Trapattoni will be expected to play for a draw that would consolidate his team's hold on second place and a playoff berth with Bulgaria seven points behind the Irish in third. This strategy also has its risks though, as the Irish do not have the technical ability needed to shut out opponents by hiding possession. This was shown on Saturday, when Trapattoni put men behind the ball after taking a first-minute lead only for Bulgaria to find a deserved equaliser with a late Kevin Kilbane own goal. But Italy coach Marcello Lippi remains wary. "Ireland should not be judged on the draw with Bulgaria but on the good things they have managed to do so far in these World Cup qualifiers," he told reporters. "If I know Trapattoni he'll be able to create the right level of tension and do everything to play a nasty joke on us." Victory in Montenegro came at a price for Italy, as forward Antonio Di Natale suffered a knee injury early on and faces a long spell on the sidelines. Probable teams: Italy: Gianluigi Buffon; Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Grosso; Angelo Palombo, Andrea Pirlo, 6-Daniele De Rossi; 7-Fabio Quagliarella, 9-Vincenzo Iaquinta, Giuseppe Rossi Ireland: Shay Given; Paul McShane, Richard Dunne, John O'Shea, Kevin Kilbane; Aidan McGeady, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Stephen Hunt; Robbie Keane, Kevin Doyle