Italy attack-minded for Malta match

Fresh off a rousing comeback against Brazil in a friendly, Cesare Prandelli’s Italy side face a trip to Malta on Tuesday as they look to extend their lead over Bulgaria in Group B and move one step closer to World Cup qualification.

Prandelli will be hoping Italy carry that second half form into the match at the Ta’Qali National Stadium, especially given that Pietro Ghedin’s men have yet to win in this qualification campaign and have only scored one goal in the four matches they have played.

The Azzurri found themselves two goals down at half time against the South Americans on Thursday, but thanks to an inspirational Mario Balotelli second half performance, which included a wonderful 30-yard strike, they finished the match level at 2-2.

As expected, Balotelli will start the match and could be joined by his AC Milan teammate Stephan El Shaarawy, given Roma’s Pablo Osvaldo is suspended.

Torino’s Alessio Cerci, who made his international debut against the Brazilians, is also favoured to line up alongside the Rossoneri frontmen in a three-pronged attack, following an accomplished performance on Thursday.

Despite Daniele De Rossi also being suspended, Prandelli can welcome back Claudio Marchisio who has recovered from a minor knock and is expected to be a direct replacement for the Roman.

Ignazio Abate is another who was injured for the Brazil encounter but is fit enough to return and will vie with Christian Maggio for the right back slot.

Mattia De Sciglio is expected to keep his place at left-back despite making a shaky debut in the game against Brazil.

That would mean Italy fielding a line-up of five players from both AC Milan, and Juventus, with Cerci being the sole outsider.

Malta coach Ghedin is expected to make changes to his side following their crushing 6-0 defeat to Bulgaria on Friday evening.

Both Ryan Camilleri and Rowen Muscat, who came on as substitutes in that match, will be hoping to make it into the first eleven in place of Roderick Briffa and Paul Fenech, the men they replaced.

While the island nation will be looking to the country’s all time leading goalscorer Michael Mifsud for inspiration, the prospects are dim, as in five previous meetings between the two sides Malta have only scored twice, and conceded 17 goals.

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