Thursday evening’s early Euro 2012 Group C kick-off pits Italy against Croatia in Poznan, with both sides keen to take advantage of their impressive opening results last Sunday.
The Italians secured a creditable 1-1 draw with current world and European champions Spain, with Udinese goal-machine Antonio di Natale grabbing the opener after replacing Mario Balotelli.
Di Natale’s cool finish was quickly cancelled out by Cesc Fabregas, but it was a satisfactory result nonetheless for Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli.
His brand of football – typical Italian steel married with attacking intent – won a host of admirers even in Spain, despite a history of football hostility between the two powerhouses.
The current match-fixing scandal unravelling in Italy appeared to have little impact, though there is now a new storm brewing after Antonio Cassano’s homophobic comments in Tuesday’s press conference.
The Milan striker could be set to lose his starting place in favour of Di Natale, giving a reprieve to Balotelli, who was ineffectual against the Spanish.
The Italians have odds of 13/10 to gain victory in bwin’s 3way market, with Croatia priced at 23/10 and the draw at odds of 21/10.
Croatia have been able to prepare for tonight’s match safe in the knowledge that victory could see them qualify for the knock-out stages after a double from Mario Mandžukić and Nikica Jelavić’s predatory finish crushed the Republic of Ireland 3-1.
It was a result sure to have delighted Croatia’s beanie hat-clad manager Slaven Bilić, though the former West Ham and Everton defender was quick to start the mind games ahead of tonight’s clash by boasting that his midfield schemer Luka Modrić is superior to Italy’s Andrea Pirlo.
Whether Bilić’s attempts work remain to be seen, but the former Everton and West Ham defender will take confidence from his country’s record against the Italians, which currently stands at two wins and a draw from three competitive meetings.
The draw could tempt a few bets this evening as it is a result that suits both sides, with a 1-1 finish result looking particularly tempting at odds of 19/4.
However, after their performance against Spain, Italy should have the edge this evening and there are a couple of Azzurri-themed markets that could be of interest.
Given the history between the two countries, the encounter may well be a tight affair won by just the odd goal and with that in mind, a 2-1 Italy win could be worth a punt at odds of 8/1.
Punters registering with bwin receive a free £25 bet and placing this on Italy to beat Croatia 2-1 would return an impressive £225 if that scoreline materialises.
Alternatively, if you want a bit more value then why not double up the 2-1 Italy selection with Di Natale to score first in bwin’s scorecast market.
Wait for the confirmed line-ups, but if the Udinese striker gets the nod, backing this punt at odds of 35/1 with that £25 stake would provide massive potential winnings of £900.
Recommended bet: Italy to beat Croatia 2-1 @ 8/1
Outside punt: Di Natale to score first and Italy to win 2-1 @ 35/1
New customers can register here to claim a free £25 bet or click here to see all our Euro 2012 odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwinbetting