Former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli will renew acquaintances with his old Manchester United rival Javier Hernandez on Sunday – and he looks well placed to come out on top by helping Italy to victory over Mexico.
Balotelli had an injury scare in training on Friday but coach Cesare Prandelli is optimistic that he will be fit to spearhead the Azzurri attack as they begin their Confederations Cup campaign against Chicharito and company.
The AC Milan striker should be the focal point of a 4-3-2-1 formation if Prandelli decides to deploy the remodelled system, with Emanuele Giaccherini and Claudio Marchisio operating in behind.
Balotelli, who has scored four goals in his last eight appearances for his country, is 5/4 to notch at any time while Hernandez is a 6/4 chance, and both prices are among those included in our Money Back Special for the game, which you can see right here.
But in truth, Balotelli looks a far better option than the ‘Little Pea’ when Mexico’s recent form is taken into consideration.
El Tri are unbeaten in 13 matches, but they have drawn eight of nine games in 2013, including stalemates in five of their six World Cup qualifying outings.
Four of those qualifiers saw Mexico draw a blank and there have been calls for coach Jose de la Torre’s head after the team were booed off following last week’s goalless draw with Costa Rica.
De la Torre has actually only lost three of his 37 matches in charge, but their obvious lack of firepower – Hernandez is the only man to have scored for Mexico this year – means Italy look the smart play to begin their Group A campaign with a victory at the Maracana.
The Azzurri are 13/10 favourites, with the draw at 21/10 and Mexico at 11/5, and while the odds-against shout on the Euro 2012 finalists looks decent in its own right, a low-scoring Italy win offers even more value.
After all, Prandelli’s men are not exactly in inspired form themselves having been held to an embarrassing 2-2 draw by Haiti last week, which followed on from a drab 0-0 draw with Czech Republic in World Cup qualifying – a result which owed much to a Gianluigi Buffon masterclass.
There will be some tired Italian legs on show and with Mexico likely to adopt a cautious approach, it could be that a narrow triumph is the best that Italy can hope for and a price of 7/4 on them winning a game of under 3.5 goals looks a great punt.
For all their attacking woes, El Tri are resolute defensively and their recent games have largely been bore-fests – there have been just nine goals scored at either end in their last eight outings.
So I’m not expecting a classic, but Balotelli and company should have enough quality to begin their Brazilian adventure with a hard-earned three points.