Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Hughes relishing Italy clash

Aaron Hughes

Fulham defender Aaron Hughes is relishing the prospect of leading Northern Ireland out against Italy at Windsor Park on Friday night.

Nigel Worthington's side opened their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a 1-0 win over Slovenia in Maribor at the start of September. Having tasted some famous nights at Windsor Park, which included wins over England and Spain, Hughes sees no reason why Northern Ireland cannot pull off another shock.

"At home over the last few years we've had some really good results," Hughes told www.fulhamfc.com.

"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.

"We face a tough test and we have to do everything we did against Slovenia in the first game and a little bit more."

After their own Italian job, Northern Ireland travel to Toftir to face the Faroe Islands as they look to keep up the pace in Group C. Hughes, though, warned against complacency.

"We will go into the game against the Faroe Islands as favourites, but it will almost be like a cup match against a lower league team," the Fulham defender said.

"We have to make sure we do everything right because it's the type of game you can easily slip up in. If you don't do it properly you will become unstuck so they are two massive games for us.

"In past qualification campaigns we have done well around the middle of the campaign and not got off to the best start. We have had to play catch-up in the past, but if we can get a strong start then we will give ourselves a really good chance."