Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini already has one eye on Tuesday's clash with Serbia ahead of their visit to Northern Ireland on Friday night.
The Juventus man feels the Serbs will present the Azzurri's main competition for the top spot in Euro 2012 qualifying Group C.
But 26-year-old Chiellini is by no means expecting an easy encounter at the Windsor Park Stadium.
"I believe we will fight for the first spot with Serbia," said Chiellini.
"But I think the two games are equally difficult and very important for qualification to Euro 2012.
"We will have to be focused from start to finish."
Northern Ireland, who kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win over Slovenia in Maribor last month, sit three points behind current group leaders Italy but have a game in hand.
The team have sprung some surprises in Belfast over the past five years, seeing off the likes of Spain and England, and Chiellini has acknowledged the threat they pose on their own turf.
"They are more dangerous when playing at home," Chiellini added. "Northern Ireland seem to have another gear in front of their fans.
"They narrowly missed out on Euro 2008 and this year's World Cup. We will have to be ready for a sporting battle."
Cesare Prandelli's side head into the clash on the back of wins over Estonia and the Faroe Islands.
Chiellini knows a good result on Friday would provide a welcome lift in morale ahead of Tuesday's showdown in Genoa.
"Serbia have more quality than Northern Ireland," said Chiellini. "It's going to be a very difficult game.
"We will have to go to the encounter in the best possible way."