Italy confounded their critics with a hugely impressive 2-0 win against Belgium in their opening game at Euro 2016. The Azzurri had been largely written off by many observers in the build-up to the tournament, but in beating Marc Wilmots' men, Antonio Conte's side proved that they must once again be considered as serious contenders to be crowned as champions this summer.
A win against Sweden will be enough to ensure that Italy progress to the last 16 of the competition and the Azzurri are chalked up as a 5/6 (1.83) chance with Paddy Power to pick up the three points that they require from Friday's fixture.
Sweden's hopes of reaching the knockout stages, however, are considerably more precarious following a 1-1 draw with Republic of Ireland in their opening group game. Erik Hamren's side are available at 4/1 (5.0) with Paddy Power to breathe fresh life into their campaign with a vital victory, while the odds compilers offer 12/5 (3.40) that Sweden are forced to settle for a share of the spoils for a second match in succession.
History is certainly in Italy's favour, for the Azzurri have been beaten in just two of their 22 matches at the group stages of this competition, while Sweden have come out on top in just three of their last 15 fixtures at the European Championships.
Sweden will hope that their talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, can provide some much-needed inspiration, but the striker cut a frustrated figure for long spells against Ireland as his team-mates struggled to produce the level of service that the 34-year-old front man has become accustomed to at club level.
Sweden failed to register a single shot on target in their opening game of the tournament, although Ibrahimovic, predictably, had a hand in their equalising goal, providing the cross that the unfortunate Ciaran Clark turned into his own net.
Ibrahimovic, though, will have to be at the peak of his powers if he is to find a way through Italy's disciplined defensive unit. The Azzurri deployed a back three of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini against Belgium, with Gianluigi Buffon in goal; the understanding between the four men - all of whom play their club football for Italian champions Juventus - is extremely advantageous for the Azzurri and Conte's charges will reap the rewards of that relationship in France.
The Italians have kept a clean sheet in each of their last three matches and the even money (2.0) quote from Paddy Power for Conte's men to shut out the Swedes may prove popular here. Better value, though, lies in backing the Azzurri to win to nil against Hamren's outfit at 13/8 (2.63) with Paddy Power.
The selection would have paid dividends in five of Italy's last seven victories and the juicy 13/8 (2.63) quote offered up by the odds compilers for the trend to continue in Toulouse is the recommended play for punters.
Those looking for further incentive to get involved should take advantage of Paddy Power's superb money back special on this match - simply bet £20 on a team to win the match and Paddy Power will pay you £5 for every goal that your team scores.
|Italy to win to nil at 13/8 (2.63) for a 2pt stake with Paddy Power|