WC Qual - UEFA
September 7, 2012
Bulgaria v Italy: Preview
Team Stat Comparison
|Goals for *||2.5||2.3|
|Goals against *||0.8||1.0|
|Last 5 home||W-D-W-D||W-W|
|Last 5 away||D-D||W-W-D|
|* Goals per match - home matches for home club and away matches for away club|
|Stats: Bulgaria | Italy|
|9/6||A: Italy||6/7||A: Czech Republic|
|9/10||A: Malta||9/6||H: Bulgaria|
|10/11||A: Armenia||9/10||H: Czech Republic|
|10/15||H: Czech Republic||10/11||A: Denmark|
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is determined to avoid any over-confidence from his team heading into their World Cup qualifiers, admitting that a 'little fear' among the players usually leads to a better performance.
The Italians are firm favourites to top Group B and go into tomorrow's opener against Bulgaria in Sofia buoyed by their impressive showing at Euro 2012, where they made it all the way to the final before losing to reigning world and European champions Spain.
However, with the likes of group rivals Czech Republic, Denmark and the Bulgarians unlikely to give Italy a free passage to Brazil 2014, Prandelli knows his side will need to be on their toes.
"The danger is taking success for granted. Instead, we do our best when we have a little 'fear','' said Prandelli.
"Bulgaria are a very good team that is rebuilding, it is relatively young and plays with great determination. They are a very interesting team.
"Tomorrow we will face a hostile environment, now we are one of the teams to beat. It will be difficult, but we have trained very well.''
Daniele De Rossi looks set to feature following an ankle injury but Mario Balotelli has undergone eye surgery and misses the match while Antonio Cassano has been left out over fitness issues.
Bulgaria's campaign begins with three matches at home - Italy, Armenia on September 11 and Denmark on October 12.
That gives the team the ideal chance to build themselves a platform within the group, according to coach Luboslav Penev.
"We are playing at home early - three matches in fact,'' he said.
"This is a signal for the crowd to get behind us.
"Those results will be important and we will be chasing a victory in every match.''
However, Penev is aware Italy will not be easy opponents - even when Bulgaria have home advantage.
"We're playing one of the strongest teams in the world against Italy,'' he said.
"At this point, I'm extremely pleased with my players. We're very calm, things are going well. Yes we are outsiders, this is true, But we will try to change that.''
Penev had hopes of being able to bring in striker Dimitar Berbatov for the start of their World Cup qualifying campaign, but the new Fulham signing turned down a call-up to the squad.