Italy will look to heap the pressure on Group G leaders Spain when they host Liechtenstein in a qualifying encounter at Stadio Fruili on Sunday.
Italy will look to kickstart the second half of their World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign with a bang, when they play hosts to minnows Liechtenstein at Stadio Fruili on Sunday. A win for Giampiero Ventura’s side will see them get one step closer to booking a date in Russia for next year’s World Cup.
Both sides come into this match on the back of a contrasting run of results. While Italy is undefeated since their ouster from Euro 2016 (W7 D2), Liechtenstein have lost all but one of their last six games, with the other result being a draw.
The reverse fixture between the two sides earlier in the World Cup qualifying saw Italy run riot at the Rheinpark Stadion, with a thumping 4-0 win over Liechtenstein. Ahead of their second meeting on Sunday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the fixture.
Team News & Tactics
Giampiero Ventura has overseen a smooth transition since the departure of Antonio Conte after Euro 2016. The Azzurri have played a brand of exciting, attacking football under the veteran coach while retaining their identity of being one of the most solid sides in the world.
Consistent performances from midfield has been one of the chief reasons for such impressive performances in the last year. However, ahead of the visit of Liechtenstein on Sunday, Ventura will be without the services of two of his key midfielders, with Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio sidelined with their respective injuries.
In their absence, veteran midfielder Daniele De Rossi and the returning Ricardo Montolivo are expected to start in the centre of the park. The Italy boss, meanwhile, is likely to test some of his fringe players against the minnows on Sunday.
As a result, the likes of Daniele Rugani, Davide Astori and Domenico Berardi might get their chances to impress. Up front, though, the strike partnership of Andrea Belotti and Ciro Immobile are expected to continue, and will be tasked with getting the all-important goals for their side.
Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Buffon; Zappacosta, Rugani, Astori, De Sciglio; Berardi, De Rossi, Montolivo, Insigne; Belotti, Immobile
Liechtenstein have been the resident punching bags for the biggest clubs in Europe for several years now. In fact, they have seldom managed to get anything out of their qualifying campaigns for the World Cup and European Championships over the years, and the same has been the case this time as well.
The minnows have lost each of their first five matches in the World Cup 2018 qualifiers and they are unlikely to get anything out of the match on Sunday either. However, Rene Pauritsch will look to motivate his side to do a repeat of their shock 1-1 draw against Finland earlier this week against the rampant Italians.
The onus will, thus, be on Liechtenstein’s defensive unit to somehow keep the barraging Italy attack at bay. The pressure will be on the young shoulders of Andreas Malin and Pascal Foser, while Peter Jehle will need to stand tall when he faces shot after shot at his goal.
The likes of Yanik Frick and Dennis Salanovic will be the candidates to get the improbable goals against the solid Italian defensive unit.
Possible Starting XI (4-5-1): Jehle; Rechsteiner, Malin, Foser, Goppel; Burgmeier, Buchel, Polverino, Hasler, Salanovic; Frick
- This is only the second ever meeting in history between Italy and Liechtenstein.
- The first encounter between the two sides was the reverse qualifying fixture in November, as Italy ran out 4-0 winners over Liechtenstein.
- Liechtenstein are on a five-game losing run in their World Cup 2018 qualifying campaign, and have scored just one goal while conceding a staggering 19.
- In contrast, Italy have not lost a single game so far in their qualifying campaign, with four wins and a draw in five matches.
Italy 4-0 Liechtenstein
Italy have turned on the style under Giampiero Ventura, producing a brand of eye catching football with equal measure of defensive solidity to boot. And against a hapless Liechtenstein, the Azzurri are expected to dominate just like they did in the reverse fixture in November.
Ventura’s side have been rampant recently, with their last two friendly games ending with a cumulative scoreline of 11-0. Considering the form their attack is in currently, Italy are likely to continue in a similar vein of form on Sunday as well against a side that has already conceded 19 goals in their qualifying campaign so far.
Like in the reverse fixture, Andrea Belotti is the likeliest of the players to make their mark on the scoresheet on the night, with the youngster being in sublime touch all through 2016/17. All in all, it should be an easy outing for Italy against a Liechtenstein side that has simply been making up the numbers in Group G.