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Azerbaijan v Italy: Conte´s men out to seal qualification

Italy are three points away from a Euro 2016 berth but Stephan El Shaarawy and Co. are not taking anything for granted as they prepare to face Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan will host Italy in Baku on Saturday, with the Group H leaders knowing a win is enough to secure their ticket to France next year.

Italy top the standings on 18 points after eight matchdays, two points clear of Norway, who travel to the former next week.

Azerbaijan are eight points adrift of the play-off spot and out of qualifying contention.

However, El Shaarawy insists the Italians are not underestimating Azerbaijan, who have held Norway and Croatia to goalless draws.

“It’s definitely a very important game, because we’ll be in the European Championships with a win,” El Shaarawy told reporters.

“Because of that, we can’t underestimate our opponents. We’re training well, and we’ll have to go onto the pitch with the maximum commitment.”

Antonio Conte’s Italy – runners-up in 2012 – will be without in-form Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne for the away date.

AC Milan midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura, however, has a chance to stake his claim ahead of the showpiece tournament across the border.

“In a moment that was not great at Milan, this call certainly gave me renewed enthusiasm,” he told Sky Sport Italia.

“I am happy to go to the Coverciano camp and I feel ready. The European Championships are a big motivation to do well.

“I will certainly try to do my best with Milan so I can become an important player for the Nazionale.”

Toronto FC star Sebastian Giovinco is also back in the international fold, having succumbed to injury before last month’s qualifiers against Malta and Bulgaria.

Former Juventus forward Giovinco has taken MLS by storm, scoring 21 goals and contributing 15 assists as he prepares to earn his 21st cap.

“I am happy to be back wearing the Italy jersey and to have recaptured a place in the Nazionale,” the 28-year-old told Rai Sport.

“Just being here is already a victory, one I really hoped for and wanted, because it was by no means to be taken for granted.

“In Toronto not just football, but all sports are experienced as moments of enjoyment and celebration. It’s a wonderful atmosphere.

“My current club never put any pressure on me. In fact, they are all happy that I’m here on international duty.”

Fri 9 Oct, 2015
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