Italy take on Russia on Friday at the Letzigrund in Zurich to finish off their troublesome preparations for the upcoming European Championships.
Before facing a group containing the likes of Spain and Croatia, the FIGC have chosen the Azzurri’s toughest opponent carefully by opting for a star-studded Russian side capable of beating anyone on its day.
Following the rather worrying re-emergence of the Calcioscommesse scandal – which compelled Domenico Criscito to pull out of the competition in order to clear his name and Gianluigi Buffon to explain some unusual bank transfers – Russia will be hoping they can catch Italy unawares.
Following this theory, odds of 14/5 on Russia winning their last friendly before the Euros are good value for money.
With Prandelli’s team often relying on midfielders to come up with goals Marchisio looks a good bet to open the scoring at 14/1.
The trouble with this scandal is that, rather than receiving the full force of it in one go, Cesare Prandelli is waking up every morning to find a new name splashed all over the front pages. From Criscito through to Leonardo Bonucci and Buffon, Italy are unable to obtain any closure, which will certainly affect their morale and concentration.
With the Azzurri’s Euro campaign quickly going off the rails before a ball has even been kicked, Russia could be tempting bets to take the lead early on and protect it until the end.
At 5/1, they can be backed to lead at half time and get the job done in 90 minutes.
Despite their shakiness, however, Italy can still count on a star-studded side and, in particular, a midfield that has been firing on all cylinders of late: both Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo recently won the Serie A title with Juventus, whilst Daniele De Rossi has been one of Roma’s stalwarts this season.
So scandal or no scandal, Russia are unlikely to have it all their own way and it could yet be that Italy’s midfield helps the Azzurri record a morale-boosting victory.
With Prandelli’s team often relying on midfielders to come up with goals, Marchisio looks a good bet to open the scoring at 14/1.
After all, he scored nine league goals in 36 appearances for Juve this season and bagged the opener for his country against Serbia as Italy’s qualification campaign drew to a close.
Recommended bet: Marchisio to find the back of the net first @ 7/1
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