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WC Qualification Europe

  • March 26, 2013
  • • 19:45
  • • Ta'Qali National Stadium, Ta'Qali
  • Referee: S. Gözübüyük
  • • Attendance: 17011
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Malta-Italy Preview: Marchisio and Abate return

Malta-Italy Preview: Marchisio and Abate return

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With Bulgaria hot on their heels, the Azzurri are looking to extend their lead at the top of Group B with victory against Pietro Ghedin's minnows

  PROBABLE LINEUPS

MALTA

Hogg
Caruana, Agius, Dimech, Camilleri
Muscat, Failla, R.Fenech, Herrera
Schembri
Mifsud
ITALY

Buffon
Maggio, Barzagli, Bonucci, De Sciglio
Montolivo, Pirlo, Giaccherini
Marchisio
Balotelli, El Shaarawy

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli can welcome back Claudio Marchisio and Ignazio Abate for the 2014 World Cup qualifier against Malta after the pair missed the 2-2 friendly draw with Brazil on Thursday.

Abate is vying with Napoli's Christian Maggio for the right-back role, whilst Marchisio is expected to come into the midfield in place of the suspended Daniele De Rossi. Pablo Daniel Osvaldo also misses out through suspension, meaning that Stephan El Shaarawy could partner his AC Milan team-mate Mario Balotelli up front.

Mattia De Sciglio is expected to maintain his spot at left-back after impressing on his international debut, whilst Giorgio Chiellini is also pushing for a start. Gianluigi Buffon is set for his 126th Azzurri cap between the sticks and Alessandro Florenzi has joined the squad from the Under-21 set-up.

Malta coach Pietro Ghedin could be tempted to make changes to the side which were crushed 6-0 by Bulgaria on Friday evening.

Roderick Briffa and Paul Fenech were both substituted in that defeat and their replacements Ryan Camilleri and Rowen Muscat could be in line for starting berths.

Michael Mifsud, Malta's leading all-time goalscorer with 36 goals, is once again set to lead the front line and is looking for his first goal in qualifying.

  DID YOU KNOW?
  • Milan striker Mario Balotelli (pictured, right), who scored Italy's equaliser in Thursday's 2-2 draw with Brazil, has notched eight goals in eight games for club and country in 2013.
  • Malta are managed by Pietro Ghedin, who between 1996-2004, was the assistant coach of the Italian national team.

  • Italy have played the archipelago nation on five occasions, winning all the ties by a combined score of 17-2.

  • In the reverse fixture back in September, the Azzurri emerged 2-0 winners courtesy of goals from Mattia Destro and Federico Peluso. However, both players have been omitted from Prandelli's squad selection this time around.

  • Malta are yet to register a point in 2014 World Cup qualifying, having lost all four of their opening group matches and scoring a solitary goal in the process.

  • In the most recent Fifa world rankings, Italy are ranked fifth and Malta 147th.

Related

Field Report
Reader's Predictions
Top 3 Predictions
Head to Head
World Cup Qualifying - UEFA ‎(WCQ)‎ Mar 26, 2013 Malta 0 - Italy 2
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World Cup Qualifying - UEFA ‎(WCQ)‎ Sep 11, 2012 Italy 2 - Malta 0
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Last Five Matches
Malta
Sep 9, 2014Croatia 2 - Malta 0ECQ
Nov 19, 2013Malta 3 - Faroe Islands 2FR
Oct 15, 2013Denmark 6 - Malta 0WCQ
Oct 11, 2013Malta 1 - Czech Rep. 4WCQ
Sep 10, 2013Malta 1 - Bulgaria 2WCQ
Italy
Sep 9, 2014Norway 0 - Italy 2ECQ
Sep 4, 2014Italy 2 - Netherlands 0FR
Jun 24, 2014Italy 0 - Uruguay 1WC
Jun 20, 2014Italy 0 - Costa Rica 1WC
Jun 14, 2014England 1 - Italy 2WC
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
12Justin HaberGoalkeeper
-Alexander MuscatDefender
16Edward HerreraDefender
2Jonathan CaruanaDefender
6Luke DimechDefender
-Ryan CamilleriDefender
13Clayton FalliaMidfielder
4Gareth SciberrasMidfielder
8Roderick BriffaMidfielder
13André SchembriStriker
9Michael MifsudStriker
1Andrew HoggGoalkeeper
5Andrei AgiusDefender
-Jacob Dominico BorgDefender
10Andrew CohenStriker
14Paul FenechMidfielder
6Ryan FenechMidfielder
-Rowen MuscatStriker
-Terence VellaStriker
Players to Watch
Andrew Hogg
Andrew Hogg
Position: Goalkeeper
Squad Number: 1
Games Goals YC RC
4 0 1 0
The Cyprus-based goalkeeper has conceded 12 goals in Malta's opening four qualifying matches and if Pietro Ghedin's side are to salvage anything from this match, the 28-year-old shot-stopper will need to be at his very best to keep Italy at bay.
Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli
Position:
Squad Number: 0
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
Since moving from Manchester City to Milan, Balotelli has been in red-hot form for both club and country with eight goals in his last eight matches. The explosive forward also scored in Italy's last qualifier against Denmark back in October and should be expected to cause the leaky Maltese backline problems.
Prediction
Cesare Prandelli's side produced an impressive second-half display to fight back from two goals down against Brazil on Thursday and if the Azzurri can show the same fight and quality here, it should be enough to see off the challenge of a winless Malta.
Editor's Prediction
Malta 0
Italy 3

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