Just as in the run up to their victorious World Cup 2006 campaign, Italy's preparation for Euro 2012 looks in danger of being overshadowed by a match-fixing scandal that has already forced defender Domenico Criscito to withdraw from the squad.
The situation is far from ideal for coach Cesare Prandelli, who will be hoping to put the nation back in the headlines for the right reasons with a convincing victory against minnows Luxembourg on Tuesday.
The Azzurri are widely expected to do just that, and are overwhelming 1/25 (1.04) favourites with Sportingbet to beat FIFA’s 119th ranked nation.
Luxembourg have actually enjoyed something of a resurgence in recent months, having beaten Albania and Macedonia to win two of their last five games – their best run of form since 1995.
However, this run seems likely to come to an end in Parma, with Luxembourg a massive 28/1 (29.0) to claim a win that would eclipse any recent victories.
Luc Holtz’s men have never even secured a draw in six previous games against Italy, and are 17/2 (9.50) to do so this time.
A major factor in the tiny nation's recent success must be attributed to their improved defensive resilience, as the traditional whipping boys conceded an average of just two goals a game during Euro 2012 qualification.
The Italian version of the beautiful game has never been known for its prolific attacking, and Prandelli’s men have actually failed to score in their last two games - 1-0 friendly defeats to USA and Uruguay.
With that in mind, odds of 17/20 (1.85) for under 3.5 goals are very tempting, and is where the smart money lies.
Even the slightly riskier 2-3 total goal band could be worth a pop at 11/8 (2.38), as this would have paid out in three of the last five games for each side respectively.
With Italy in turmoil, this could be the ideal time for Luxembourg to confirm they are no longer the pushovers they once were at international level.
|Under 3.5 goals at 17/20 (1.85) with Sportingbet
||2-3 Total goals at 11/8 (2.38) with Sportingbet
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Al Hain-Cole is a Liverpool fan, experienced tipster and avid follower of European football. He specialises in accumulators and if you would like to read more from Al you can follow him on Twitter here.
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