World Cup Qualifying Preview: Armenia - Italy
Cesare Prandelli's side was disappointing in September's matches against Bulgaria and Malta, but will be hoping to prove what it is capable of on Friday.
By William Shand
Aleksanyan, Mkoyan, Arz'yan, Hayrapetyan
Ozbiliz, Mkhitaryan, Sarkisov
Maggio, Bonucci, Barzagli, Criscito
De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio
Italy will look to make an early statement of intent to its qualification rival as it travels to Yerevan for what should be, on paper, a straightforward victory.
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 his 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 favor 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 its best to date (it finished third in its group and a mere four points from qualification).
With the retirement of fullback 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 shock-waves around Europe.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
Italy is currently ranked eighth in FIFA’s ranking.
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 at 35.7 percent.
Top 3 Predictions
Armenia 0-3 Italy
- 22.53 %
Armenia 0-2 Italy
- 17.87 %
Armenia 0-4 Italy
- 9.31 %
|WCQ 2014 (UEFA) (WCQE)||Oct 15, 2013||Italy 2 - Armenia 2|
|WCQ 2014 (UEFA) (WCQE)||Oct 12, 2012||Armenia 1 - Italy 3|
|Mar 5, 2014||Russia 2 - Armenia 0||FR|
|Oct 15, 2013||Italy 2 - Armenia 2||WCQE|
|Oct 11, 2013||Armenia 2 - Bulgaria 1||WCQE|
|Sep 10, 2013||Armenia 0 - Denmark 1||WCQE|
|Sep 6, 2013||Czech Republic 1 - Armenia 2||WCQE|
|16||Daniele De Rossi||Midfielder|
|10||Pablo Daniel Osvaldo||Striker|
|-||Morgan De Sanctis|
|-||Stephan El Shaarawy|