Italy head into their qualifier against Slovenia in a comfortable position, which sees them three points ahead of their hosts. A Euro qualifier at this stage of the season is definitely something the players are not looking forward to, yet its importance is second to none. Let us have a quick look at some key points.
Danielle De Rossi and Mario Balotelli are both suspended from the Italy squad as a result of their recent indiscretions at club level. Cesare Prandelli has a firm discipline rule in place, and both the players were found to have strayed and have accepted their suspensions without complaint.
In terms of injuries, a notable absentee will be Inter’s Andrea Ranocchia. It was hoped that he would recover from his knee injury, but unfortunately that has not happened.
The partnership of Cassano and Pazzini up front is something to look forward to. Their success at Sampdoria needs no introduction and if they can reproduce that form for the national team, Prandelli will be a successful coach.
Thiago Motta looks set to earn his second cap for the Azzurri. It still seems strange to say that! The other midfielders would likely be Riccardo Montolivo of Fiorentina and Alberto Aquilani of Juventus.
Slovenia’s goalkeeper Samir Handanovic plays for Udinese in the Serie A and should be very familiar with the opponents.
There are, in all, seven players on the Slovenian squad who play in Serie A. Talk about having inside knowledge of your opponents! Josip Illicic of Palermo will be the one to watch.
Slovenia’s top scorer in the qualifiers has been Tim Matavz, who has netted three thus far. Coincidentally, it has been rumored that he will be playing for Napoli in Serie A next season.
Slovenia at home is always a tough opponent and will most certainly looking to get all three points in this game.
Key stats from past encounters
Last Meeting: Italy beat Slovenia 1-0 when the two sides met back in October 2005.
Slovenia’s home record against Italy: The sides have played twice with one win for Slovenia and one draw.
I see a 1-1 draw with a tight and cagey match. Some of the players whose clubs are in the thick of things might see this game as more of a distraction.
Player(s) to watch
Instead of the customary single player, I really look forward to the Cassano-Pazzini partnership. Watch out for this dynamic duo.