Italy ran out comfortable winners against Northern Ireland in their first World Cup qualifier and are expected to overcome Group C rivals Bulgaria in similar fashion on Sunday. The Azzurri are unbeaten in their last 23 games and Roberto Mancini was particularly pleased with the first-half display in Emilia-Romagna.
Where and when: Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia – 28 March, kick-off 19:45
Where you can see Bulgaria vs. Italy: Sky Sports Red Button
Last time: Daniele De Rossi’s penalty was the difference in September 2015.
Bulgaria v Italy Predictions and Preview
The Lions’ campaign got off to the worst possible start in midweek. Yasen Petrov’s troops lost 3-1 to Switzerland and the hosts are in danger of being cut adrift if they fail to take something from the occasion with the four-time world champions.
Andrey Galabinov was not included in the squad for the first international and will be desperate to feature in his home city. The striker plies his trade in Italy and could also face club team-mate Matteo Ricci who earned a maiden call-up to the national team after impressing at Spezia this term.
Galabinov is 9/2 to net anytime and compatriot Atanas Iliev can be found at 11/2. The Botev Plovdiv attacker has enjoyed a fine first season in the Bulgarian top-flight and has struck on 13 occasions. The Lions are 18/1 to pull off a shock victory and a share of the spoils is 25/4.
|Our Eurotips||Odds||Free bets||Bookie|
|Italy to win 2-0||19/4||Offer|
|Nicolo Barella to score first||10/1||Offer|
|Over 3.5 goals||6/4||Offer|
Ciro Immobile got the nod ahead of Andrea Belotti in Parma and repaid Mancini’s faith with the second. The Lazio fan favourite had gone 18 months without a goal in open play and is the first to admit he has struggled to replicate his stunning domestic exploits for the Azzurri.
The Neapolitan is 3/1 to open proceedings and will be flanked by Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa, who has recovered from a minor knock. With the exception of Cristiano Ronaldo, the former Fiorentina winger has been the Bianconeri’s standout performer this term and has not only reached double figures with plenty of football remaining, but also contributed seven assists.
The 23-year-old is 11/2 to break the deadlock, while Insigne is 6/5 in the anytime market. Andrea Belotti is jostling with Immobile for one jersey but will have to wait a little longer for his audition. The Torino skipper is 15/4 to register last and Italy are 2/11 to emerge triumphant.
One to watch for Bulgaria: Dimitar Iliev has registered double figures in his last three seasons at Lokomotiv Plovdiv and is 7/1 to bag anytime.
One to watch for Italy: Mancini suggested Stephan El Shaarawy should move back to Serie A to boost his international chances and the wide man duly obliged in the winter. The returning Roma ace is 5/1 to notch last.
Long shot: The Lions have only beaten Czech Republic and 195th ranked Gibraltar, respectively, over a 20-match period that spans nearly two and a half years, and are in somewhat of a rebuilding stage. Bulgaria do not have a player of the calibre of Dimitar Berbatov, who was a genuine world class performer, or a Stiliyan Petrov, and it could be a long night for the hosts’ backline. A 5-0 away success is 20/1.