Dunne: Bulgaria match is key

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Republic of Ireland defender Richard Dunne is aiming to kill off Bulgaria's World Cup challenge to set up a table-topping showdown with Italy.

Ireland entertain the Bulgarians at Croke Park on Saturday evening before jetting off for their clash with the reigning champions in Bari four days later with only goal difference separating the Group Eight pace-setters after four matches.

Dunne said: "(Bulgaria) is the bigger game, really. This is the one we have to win because when the group was drawn, I suppose everyone thought 'Italy are through and the rest can fight it out'.

While the clash between Giovanni Trapattoni's men and his native country has been eagerly anticipated ever since the draw was made, Manchester City star Dunne insists the fixture which immediately precedes it is the more important of the two.

The Republic and Italy are well clear at the top of the group on 10 points, with Stanimir Stoilov's side a distant third with just three points having played a game fewer.

Defeat in Dublin could leave Bulgaria with a huge battle to snatch one of the top qualification places and leave the teams currently in possession to fight it out over the remaining games of the campaign.

Dunne added: "We have to make sure Bulgaria are 10 points behind us come Sunday morning, and then we will go into the Italian game full of confidence.

"We believe within our own group that we can upset the Italians and we can take points from them as well."

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