Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 19/40
Italy are going head to head against Spain in a derby match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying Group G looking to extend their remarkable 51-match unbeaten stretch in the qualifiers which has been alive for over ten years now.
Azzurri went off to an erratic start to the new chapter following a disappointing summer in France which ended in the quarter-finals. Gian Piero Ventura replaced Antonio Conte on the bench as Italy boss, but didn’t have the best of promotions as he oversaw his team lose to France 3-1 on his debut. Azzurri bounced back with a 3-1 victory over Israel at the beginning of the World Cup qualifications and will be keen to build up on the result as they prepare to welcome Spain in what is going to be one of the most prominent matches all around the qualifying round. Italy play host to La Roja looking to further extend their ten-year and 51-match unbeaten run in the qualifiers which is a remarkable record. New head coach did not introduce big changes to the team he inherited from Antonio Conte and has named a largely similar 26-man party for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Spain and Macedonia. Interestingly enough, there was still no place for in-form Nice striker Mario Balotelli, who has been left out despite scoring four goals in his past two league matches for the club.
Geno goalkeeper Mattia Perin replaced injured Lazio shot stopper Federico Marchetti as one of the reserves for Gianluigi Buffon, alongside the 17-year-old AC Milan’s teenage sensation Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Domenico Criscito, Matteo Darmian and Nicola Sansone all return to the fold in a largely unchanged squas that won 3-1 in Israel.
La Roja are facing an opportunity to make amends for the disappointing Euro 2016 knockouts defeat to Italy, which saw Spain finish their European title challenge end in disappointing fashion earlier this summer. Vicente Del Bosque’s men had been dealt a 2-0 blow which ultimately marked an end of an era for the Spanish. Newly appointed Julen Lopetegui started his Spain career with a vibrant 2-0 win in Belgium and a rampant 8-0 triumph over Liechtenstein, having successfully restored the self-belief and confidence in the team. Lopetegui grabbed the challenge with both hands embracing his new role and inducing plenty of changes to his predecessor’s team. Spain head coach has added Real Sociedad centre-back Inigo Martinez to the World Cup qualifiers squad, while he also stood strong behind his choice of including out of favour Real Madrid midfielder Isco, which was a rather surprising choice in the Spanish public eye. Faced with a demanding task of reviving Spain’s glory the new national team head coach has gone off to a flying start, impressing with self-assurance which he managed to imprint on his players straight from the start.
Cesk Fabregas and Iker Casillas are the two most prominent omissions in Spain’s squad list, while Julen Lopetegui also left out Paco Alcacer.
Andres Iniesta returns to the fold after being injured for Lopetegui’s first squad, while the new boss handed a recall to Napoli’s Jose Callejon.
Key Aspects to Consider
- Italy are on a 51-match unbeaten run in qualifying matches
- Azzurri’s unbeaten qualifiers run stretches over the last ten years
- La Roja scored ten goals in first two games under new boss Lopetegui
- There have been under 2.5 goals in last 4 meetings between two sides
- Italy and Spain meet for a second time in three months’ time
Italy are set to welcome Spain in what is going to be the replay of this summer’s Euro 2016 knockouts clash, when Azzuri emerged with a 2-0 victory. La Roja are a different team however as their new manager Julen Lopetegui managed to restore great deal of lost confidence and is looking to get his team back on the winning track. Games between two European heavyweights are usually close-cut encounters and we predict nothing different this time.
Verdict: Under 2.5 goals
Best Odds: 19/40
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