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FIFA World Cup Qualifying Preview: Czech Republic v Italy

The Czech Republic can leapfrog Bulgaria into second place in World Cup qualifying group B with a win over Italy in Prague on Friday.

Both teams go into the fixture on the back of victories with Italy having beaten San Marino 4-0 in a friendly last week and the Czech Republic overcoming Armenia 3-0 at the end of March.

Italy currently enjoy a three-point lead at the top the group with 13 points and also have the luxury of a game in hand over second-placed Bulgaria.

The Czech Republic are third, only two points off Bulgaria with Denmark close behind them on six points.

The last time the two countries met was in 2006 when Italy beat the Czech Republic 2-0 and both goalkeepers from that game are still in their respective goals seven years later.

Petr Cech and Gianluigi Buffon have both enjoyed hugely successful careers and remain as difficult to beat. Andrea Pirlo is another player who featured in the match seven years ago.

The 34-year-old, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, has made 98 appearances for his country and scored 12 goals.

The other three times the teams met resulted in one draw and two wins for the Czech Republic.

The Czech side could include Tomas Rosicky, who helped Arsenal to qualify for the UEFA Champions League with their fourth-placed finish in the Premier League.

Striker Matej Vydra, who spent last season on loan at Watford from Udinese, is also included in the squad amid speculation that a number of Premier League clubs are keen on signing the 21-year-old.

Italy will be without Luca Antonelli after he limped out of the San Marino clash with an ankle injury, with Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli tipped to replace him.
Wed 5 June, 2013
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