World Cup Qualifying Preview: Czech Republic - Italy
Victory for the Azzurri would extend their lead at the top of Group B to six points, while three points for Michal Bilek's side would see it 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 that 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, while Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech closes in on Karel Poborksy's appearance record (118) with his 101st cap.
Cesare Prandelli can welcome back Antonio 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 lineup.
Prandelli 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.
There is no spot for Genoa defender Luca Antonelli, who has been ruled out through an ankle injury.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Italy leads Group B with 13 points from five matches, while Czech Republic lags 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 has 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, Italy sits in eighth position, while Czech Republic is placed 24th.
Top 3 Predictions
Czech Republic 0-2 Italy
- 20.2 %
Czech Republic 1-2 Italy
- 18.39 %
Czech Republic 1-3 Italy
- 13.21 %
|WCQ 2014 (UEFA) (WCQE)||Sep 10, 2013||Italy 2 - Czech Republic 1|
|WCQ 2014 (UEFA) (WCQE)||Jun 7, 2013||Czech Republic 0 - Italy 0|
|World Cup 2006 (WC)||Jun 22, 2006||Czech Republic 0 - Italy 2|
|Mar 5, 2014||Czech Republic 2 - Norway 2||FR|
|Nov 15, 2013||Czech Republic 2 - Canada 0||FR|
|Oct 15, 2013||Bulgaria 0 - Czech Republic 1||WCQE|
|Oct 11, 2013||Malta 1 - Czech Republic 4||WCQE|
|Sep 10, 2013||Italy 2 - Czech Republic 1||WCQE|
|2||Theodor Gebre Selassie||Defender|
|16||Daniele De Rossi||Midfielder|
|-||Stephan El Shaarawy|
|5||Mattia De Sciglio||Defender|
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed