Giovanni Trapattoni has warned his Republic of Ireland side tomorrow morning’s clash with Wales will be a friendly only in name.
The sides meet at Cardiff City Stadium with the visitors looking to build towards their crucial World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria next month.
They will face a Wales side without Real Madrid target Gareth Bale after the Tottenham winger was ruled out due to his foot injury.
But Trapattoni is under no illusions that Wales still remain a potent threat to his side’s positive run of recent form, which has seen them lose just once in 2013.
Trapattoni was Italy manager when they were beaten 2-1 by Wales at a sold-out Millennium Stadium during qualifying for Euro 2004.
The atmosphere will be considerably more low-key, but the Republic boss remains wary of the Welsh.
“This is no friendly,” he said. “I know this country. I was here many years ago with Italy, as was their scorer that night, (Craig) Bellamy.
“We won in Italy but we lost over here and we know about this team, I have seen so many games and I know the Welsh players, they have a good mentality and they are international players.
“After this game we can reflect, and we will know from our attitude and personality whether we are ready to play against Sweden.”
Trapattoni is pleased he will not have to face Bale’s combination of pace, power and skill, but admits it is a shame for the home fans to miss out on seeing the Real Madrid target.
“I am a sports fan, I have 50 years in football,” he said. “It is a shame for Wales and all football fans. He is the sort of player everyone loves.
“For us it is okay and I can say we are lucky he is not playing. But I understand the situation, what is important for Bale and Real Madrid whether he goes there or not.”
Trapattoni confirmed Keiren Westwood will start in goal with David Forde ruled out by injury, although the Italian remains hopeful the Millwall stopper and defender Sean St Ledger may be fit to face the Swedes.
Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan is also handed a start, playing in the hole behind striker Shane Long.
Captain John O’Shea believes the 31-year-old has the talent to make the most of his opportunity to stake a claim for a regular spot.
“He has developed late in his career but it has been to our benefit. The manager has slowly introduced him and we are fully aware of his talents,” O’Shea said.
“The players have seen it, the manager has seen it, not just in the Premier League but every day on the training ground.
“Hopefully he will be a vital part for us during the latter stages of this campaign.
“As a tall defender he is a nightmare as he is a tough guy. He is not afraid to take a few knocks but he does get in pockets behind the midfield four and that is what the manager will want from him tomorrow night.
“Hopefully he can supply Robbie Brady, Shane Long and Jon Walters, and we know he can weigh in with a goal himself.”