Armenia - Italy Preview: Azzurri aim to make statement of intent
Cesare Prandelli's side were disappointing in September's matches against Bulgaria and Malta, but will be hoping to prove what they are capable of on Friday
By William Shand
Aleksanyan, Mkoyan, Arz'yan, Hayrapetyan
Ozbiliz, Mkhitaryan, Sarkisov
Maggio, Bonucci, Barzagli, Criscito
De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio
After drawing with Bulgaria and gaining an unconvincing three points at the expense of minnows Malta, Cesare Prandelli will be hoping for a more convincing performance against a team ranked 56 places below them in the Fifa Ranking.
To ensure this, the former Fiorentina coach will name a full-strength side with the major talking point being the exclusion of Giorgio Chiellini from Italy’s back four in favour of Andrea Barzagli. After his off-field troubles, Domenico Criscito is recalled to the starting XI while Christian Maggio will occupy the right-back berth.
In midfield, Prandelli will select a trio of De Rossi, Marchisio and Pirlo with Ricardo Montolivo being deployed just behind strikers Pablo Osvaldo (who will spearhead the Azzurri attack for the third match in a row) and the returning Mario Balotelli, who will partner with the Roma frontman for the first time.
Armenia, meanwhile, will be banking on a raucous home support as they look to pull off the greatest result in their history. Under head coach Vardan Minasyan, Armenia have been steadily improving as a unit and their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign was their best to date (they finished third in their group and a mere four points from qualification).
With the retirement of full-back Sargis Hovsepyan and the suspensions of Marcos Pizzelli and Gevorg Ghazaryan following their dismissals in the 1-0 defeat to Bulgaria, Minasyan will be forced to make changes to a normally settled team. He will hope, though, that with a fiercely partisan crowd and dangerous players in attack his side can gain a result that sends shockwaves around Europe.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
Italy are currently ranked eighth in the Fifa rankings.
This will be the first official meeting between the Azzurri and Armenia.
Cesare Prandelli has selected a squad made up of players from 12 different teams.
- Armenia won back its sovereignty in 1992 after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Goalkeeper Roman Berezovsky is the most experienced player in the Armenia squad with 73 caps to his name.
- Head coach Vardan Minasyan has the highest win percentage in Armenia’s history - 35.7 per cent.
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Top 3 Predictions
Armenia 0-3 Italy
- 22.53 %
Armenia 0-2 Italy
- 17.87 %
Armenia 0-4 Italy
- 9.31 %
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||15 Oct 2013||Italy 2 - Armenia 2|
|World Cup Qualification 2014 (Europe) (WCQE)||12 Oct 2012||Armenia 1 - Italy 3|
|15 Oct 2013||Italy 2 - Armenia 2||WCQE|
|11 Oct 2013||Armenia 2 - Bulgaria 1||WCQE|
|10 Sep 2013||Armenia 0 - Denmark 1||WCQE|
|6 Sep 2013||Czech Republic 1 - Armenia 2||WCQE|
|14 Aug 2013||Albania 2 - Armenia 0||FR|
|16||Daniele De Rossi||Midfielder|
|10||Pablo Daniel Osvaldo||Striker|
|-||Morgan De Sanctis|
|-||Stephan El Shaarawy|