The first International Break of the 2017-2018 season has come, and this will be Italy’s biggest Qualifying match in a few years.
Italy and Spain are tied atop of Group G with 16 points, as a +4 goal differential has the Spaniards in front of the Azzurri. This makes the match at the Santiago Bernabeu extremely crucial to Ventura’s 2018 World Cup qualification, as finishing second would constitute a two-leg playoff before qualifying for next June.
In their last encounter in Italy, the final score was 1-1, with Daniele De Rossi tallying the late equalizer for the Azzurri from the penalty spot. Now, a draw will not be enough for the Nazionale, as the Spaniards will still have the advantage at top of the group with their goal differential. Assuming both historical powerhouses collect the points from the other teams in Group G, this match is crucial for the group winner to create separation.
The Azzurri will need a near perfect performance in Madrid, as La Roja are an extremely dangerous side with tons of talent through the starting 11 and the bench. There’s no room for error, as Italians worldwide look to climb to the top of the table after Saturday’s match.
Spain’s Probable XI: (4-3-3) De Gea; Carvajal, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Iniesta, Busquets, D. Silva; Isco, Morata, Asensio.
Italy’s Probable XI: (4-2-4) Buffon; Darmian, Chiellini, Bonucci, Spinazzola; Verratti, De Rossi; Candreva, Belotti, Immobile, Insigne.
Players To Watch:
Marco Asensio: The Real Madrid youngster has created a lot of hype around himself over the past season, scoring absolute world class goals in every competition he’s playing in. Last season and early this season, Zidane has put more and more trust in the 21-year-old and he’s getting awarded more key minutes as time goes by. Don’t be surprised if Asensio plays a key factor in this match and with La Roja for many years to come.
Thiago Alcantara: The Bayern Munich midfielder has shown his class throughout the last couple of seasons, with top performances in the Champions League, Bundesliga and also with the National Team. Though he may not start the match, the Azzurri defence need to be aware when he’s on the pitch, as he can pull the strings from anywhere.
Andrea ‘Il Gallo’ Belotti:
Obviously, Il Gallo is a player to watch. After scoring a possible ‘goal of the year’ contender at the weekend against Sassuolo, the Torino bomber is in fine form heading into Saturday’s tilt. The Azzurri golden boy will look to score in one of his first major matches with the Nazionale, as an early goal could make all the difference.
Insigne has been in top form for over a year now with Maurizio Sarri at Napoli. Finally finding his way full-time into the Azzurri starting 11, the 26-year-old is not a kid anymore and is very dangerous around goal. Matched up against most likely Madrid’s Dani Carvajal, he’ll have his work cut out for him. If Insigne can create space and cause havoc to the Spanish defenders throughout the match, Ventura’s side have a good chance at opening the Spaniards up and creating more scoring chances.
Right now, securing three points in Spain seems like an extremely hard task, but anything is possible with this Azzurri side. A near perfect performance is needed, as Italians across the globe will be tuning in, hoping our nation won’t have to be competing in a playoff for qualification.
How To Watch: Saturday, September 2, 2017: 2:45pm EST.
USA- Fox Sports 2
Canada- Sportsnet World
Live Streaming – Fubo TV