Czech Republic-Italy Preview: Prandelli's side look to continue unbeaten qualification
Victory for the Azzurri would extend their lead at the top of Group B to six points whilst three points for Michal Bilek's side would them leapfrog Bulgaria into second place
By Max Bentley
Michal Bilek has no fresh injury concerns ahead of the qualifier and could field the same XI which comfortably saw off the challenge of Armenia with a 3-0 away win back in March.
Matej Vydra scored two goals in that match and is set to lead the line once again. Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky will look to add some creative spark from midfield whilst Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech closes in on Karel Poborksy's appearance record (118) with his 101st cap.
Cesare Prandelli can welcome back Andrea Barzagli and Stephan El Shaarawy after the pair missed the 4-0 friendly victory over San Marino last week and both are expected to go straight into the starting line-up.
The 55-year-old coach is expected to stick with the 4-3-3 formation from the last match with Ignazio Abate vying with Christian Maggio for the right-back spot. Torino winger Alessio Cerci could be handed a rare start on the right wing with the Azzurri's top goalscorer in qualifying, Mario Balotelli, in the lone striking role.
However, there is no spot for Genoa defender Luca Antonelli who has been ruled out through an ankle injury.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Italy lead Group B with 13 points from five matches, whilst Czech Republic lag behind in third place with eight points from five games.
- Mario Balotelli (pictured, right) has scored three goals in his country's last two qualifiers, making him the Azzurri's leading goalscorer in qualifying. Matej Vydra leads the Czech charts with two goals.
- Italy have won only one of the last four meetings between the nations - a 2-0 win in the World Cup 2006 group stage.
- Italy defeated Czechoslovakia to claim the 1934 FIFA World Cup Final in Rome, with a 2-1 win in extra time courtesy of goals from Ramondo Orsi and Angelo Schiavio.
- Andrea Pirlo needs only two more international appearances to reach a landmark 100 Azzurri caps.
- In the latest Fifa ranking, Czech Republic are placed 25th whilst Italy sit in 8th position.
Top 3 Predictions
Czech Republic 0-2 Italy
- 20.2 %
Czech Republic 1-2 Italy
- 18.39 %
Czech Republic 1-3 Italy
- 13.21 %
|World Cup Qualification - Europe (WCQE)||11-Sep-2013||Italy 2 - Czech Republic 1|
|World Cup Qualification - Europe (WCQE)||08-Jun-2013||Czech Republic 0 - Italy 0|
|World Cup 2006 (WC)||22-Jun-2006||Czech Republic 0 - Italy 2|
|15-Nov-2013||Czech Republic 2 - Canada 0||FR|
|15-Oct-2013||Bulgaria 0 - Czech Republic 1||WCQE|
|11-Oct-2013||Malta 1 - Czech Republic 4||WCQE|
|11-Sep-2013||Italy 2 - Czech Republic 1||WCQE|
|06-Sep-2013||Czech Republic 1 - Armenia 2||WCQE|
|2||Theodor Gebre Selassie||Defender|
|16||Daniele De Rossi||Midfielder|
|-||Stephan El Shaarawy|
|-||Mattia De Sciglio|
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed