Stadio San Paolo, Naples
15th October, 19:45 BST
Italy host Armenia at Stadio San Paolo in Naples tomorrow as the qualification for the World Cup from Europe draws to an end. The last meeting between these two sides ended in a 1-3 win for Italy as Daniele De Rossi, Pablo Osvaldo and Andrea Pirlo got on the score sheet for the away side. But Armenia will be looking to produce a better performance tomorrow as their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup hangs by a thread.
Team news and tactics
The Azzurri have already cemented their place at the top of the group and have achieved direct qualification for the World Cup in Brazil. While the result of this game doesn’t hold any importance for them, but for Cesare Prandelli it is a perfect opportunity for him to try out his lesser used players and judge his squad depth.
Italy are coming into this game on the back of a 2-2 draw with Denmark away from home. Despite taking an early lead through Pablo Osvaldo, Italy were pegged back by two goals from Nicklas Bendtner. But Prandelli’s men escaped with a draw as Alberto Aquilani scored an equaliser in the 90th minute.
Cesare Prandelli has a lot of injuries ahead of this fixture. Mario Balotelli, Lorezo Insigne, Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Barzagli and Marco Verratti are all out of contention with injuries. So Prandelli is unlikely to make any changes to the starting line-up that was fielded against Denmark. He switched to a back four in that game, with a fairly narrow 4-3-2-1 formation, instead of the 3-4-2-1 formation that he has used in recent times.
Osvaldo will once again lead the line upfront, with Candreva and Diamanti supporting him in attack. Montolivo, Motta and Marchisio will form the three man midfield with Pirlo starting on the bench. There is a possibility of Giuseppe Rossi joining back in the starting line-up or making an appearance as a substitute in this match – the Italian fans are desperate to see him back on the field for the national side after his long injury layoff.
Expected starting lineup (4-3-2-1): Buffon (GK); Silvestri, Ranocchia, Chiellini, Balzaretti; Marchisio, Motta, Montolivo; Candreva, Diamanti; Osvaldo
Armenia are currently 5th in the points table, yet only one point behind second placed Bulgaria. Their hopes of qualifying for the World cup hangs by a thread going into this game. Armenia will have to win their match against Italy and hope that the match between Bulgaria and Czech Republic ends in a draw with Denmark dropping points against Malta. But even if they manage to grab the second place somehow, they are not assured of a place in the play-off as only eight second placed teams will qualify.
Armenia kept their hopes alive with an all-important win over Bulgaria in their last game. Aras Ozbiliz gave them a lead at the end of the first half as Bulgaria went down to 10 men after Nikolay Bodurov was sent off. Bulgaria fought back in the second half and equalized via Ivelin Popov. But there was one final twist in the tale as Yura Movsisyan scored a late winner for the home side.
Manager Vardan Minasyan has some fitness concerns ahead of this fixture. Defender Arzumanyan and Aras Ozbiliz were withdrawn in the match against Bulgaria with injuries and Minasyan will hope that the duo will recover in time for the match against Italy. Other than that, he is expected to field the same side he used against Bulgaria in his favored 4-2-3-1 formation.
Despite the huge possibility of Armenia failing to qualify for the upcoming edition of the World Cup, it has been a fairly encouraging campaign for them. They have beaten the likes of Denmark, Czech Republic and Bulgaria, and have shown signs that Armenian football is heading in the right direction.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Berezovskiy (GK); Hovhannisyan, Arzumanyan, Mkoyan, Hayrapetyan; Mkrtchyan, Mkhitaryan; Ozbiliz, Sarkisov, Ghazaryan; Movsisyan
Player to watch out for
Yura Movsisyan (Armenia)
The Spartak Moscow striker has been in fine form this season and has scored four goals in his last six matches in the Russian Premier League. He has also been Armenia’s top scorer in the World Cup Qualification campaign and will once again be a threat for the Italian defence. Movsisyan scored a memorable late winner against Bulgaria in the last game and will be looking to have a similar impact against Italy.
Italy 2-2 Armenia
Armenia will come out hard at the Italians and might even take an early lead in the game, but the home side will fight back in the second half. Expect this match to end in an entertaining draw, much like the match between Denmark and Italy.