Italy, who currently trail Croatia by two points in the Group H standings of the Euro 2016 qualifiers, are set to face Malta at Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence on Thursday.
Italy faced Croatia twice and Bulgaria once in their last three Euro 2016 qualifiers meetings, which all ended in a draw. But Italy will go in as favourites against the lowest placed team in the group, Malta, who are the only side in the pool to have not won a single game in the qualifiers and it is highly unlikely that they are going to upset the European giants.
Italy may boast of a number of world class players such as Gianluigi Buffon, Graziano Pelle, Andrea Pirlo, Matteo Darmian, but the same cannot be said for Malta, who have lost their last seven encounters against the Azzuris. Italy defeated Malta last year as well, where Pelle's goal settled the game.
Malta's coach Pietro Ghedin is aware of the tough clash against Italy, but they are going to give it their all. What makes the task even more difficult is the fact that Italy have not lost European qualifiers at home since September 1999, which is an incredible feat. Can Malta break such a tremendous run?
"We do not have big names but we have a very united squad. We are in very good condition. Preparations have gone well and tomorrow we will do our utmost to turn in as good a performance as possible. One has to keep in mind that Italy are second in the group while we are bottom of the table. It will be a very difficult match to get points from, but what we can do for sure is give 100%," said Ghedin.
Italy not only need to concentrate on their game against Malta, but they also need to be on top of their game in the weekend against Bulgaria. Back-to-back victories for Italy can help them inch closer to Euro championships qualifications.
Italy's coach Antonio Conte wants to win all the remaining qualifying matches, which will help them go into the Euro 2016 with full confidence.
''We can seal qualification for the European Championship with two wins over Malta and Bulgaria,'' said Conte. ''We have to focus on our games."
''The aim is to win them all and finish top of the group; to win all of our four remaining matches would also help our confidence. We would grow from every point of view. It will be crucial to achieve these six points, it would allow us to prepare better for June.''
Expected Line ups
Buffon; Darmian, Chiellini, Bonucci, Pasqual; De Rossi, Verratti, Pirlo; El Shaarawy, Pelle, Zaza
Haber; Cini, Agius, Failla, Z Muscat; Briffa, Cohen, Fenech, Kristensen; Mifsud, Schembri
Where to Watch Live
Italy vs Malta Euro 2016 Qualifiers live match has been scheduled for 8.45 pm local time (12.15 am IST, 7.45 pm BST, 2.45 pm ET) start with live streaming option on Livsports. There is no live Tv coverage in India.
Italy vs Malta Euro 2016 Qualifiers live coverage can be watched in Sky Sports with an option of going online on Sky Go.
Viewers in the US can catch all the Italy vs Malta Euro 2016 Qualifiers match live on Fox Sports 1, while the live stream option is on Fox Sports Go.
Australian audience can catch Italy vs Malta Euro 2016 Qualifiers live on ESPN Australia.