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By ESPN Staff

Pepe set for Italy debut, Lippi hints

ROME, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Udinese forward Simone Pepe is set to make his Italy debut in Saturday's Group Eight World Cup qualifier in Bulgaria, coach Marcello Lippi hinted on Friday.

"A little Pepe is always good in the national team," Lippi told reporters, making a pun with the player's surname which is also the Italian word for pepper.

"I like him very much. He covers and attacks on the wing. He has a good shot and quality."

Pepe is expected to start on the right side of an attacking trident for the world champions in Sofia, with his Udinese team mate Antonio Di Natale on the left and Alberto Gilardino and Luca Toni vying for the position in the centre.

Lippi suggested that Toni was not out of contention despite some unspectacular recent showings for Bayern Munich.

"A player who is not brilliant with his club is not necessarily off form," the 2006 World Cup-winning coach said.

"His performance also depends on his team mates, on the coach, on other factors."

The 60-year-old Lippi said Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov was not the only Bulgarian they were watching out for.

"We all know Berbatov but they also have another important player (Manchester City winger Martin) Petrov, who is in doubt but you'll see that in the end he'll play," he said.

Petrov missed Bulgaria's 2-2 draw with Montenegro in their opener last month due to a knee injury.

Italy lead Group Eight with six points after winning their first two games against Cyprus and Georgia last month.


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