Italy take on Republic of Ireland in Poznan needing a crushing victory to see them through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.
Spain and Croatia will meet in Gdansk at the same time knowing that a high-scoring draw will automatically see both of them through, no matter what Italy do.
The Italian papers have been obsessing about the possibility of a fix for days, almost ignoring the fact that Italy themselves need to win against a dangerous Irish side with nothing to lose.
Giovanni Trapattoni’s Green Army have a good record against Italy, having beaten them 2-0 in a friendly in Liege last year.
Moreover, the Azzurri are under untold pressure to finally find some consistency, needing to win by a three-goal margin to guarantee their place in the quarter-finals. Under these circumstances, the Irish can be tipped to catch Italy on the break and score a goal – they are quoted at 8/5 to do so once.
Aiden McGeady is one of the Republic’s most creative players and will thrive on the counter against an exposed Italian defence. Assuming Trapattoni resists calls to give James McClean the nod ahead of him, the 5/1 on McGeady scoring is an extremely attractive price.
Robbie Keane wouldn’t be the last Serie A dropout to score against the Azzurri, and if Ahn Jung-Hwan could do it for South Korea back in 2002, then so can Keane and it would be no surprise to see him notch at odds of 9/4.
Another useful lead to follow would be Jon Walters, one of the men behind the Republic’s 4-0 demolition of Estonia in Tallinn. His physique and (surprisingly) technique have seen him find his feet very quickly with the Republic and were he to play he’d be a decent punt at 3/1.
Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri have numerous options up front and this week’s attempt at trying a diamond midfield has seen Antonio di Natale replace Mario Balotelli in training.
Were he to start, a price of 7/2 to repeat his feat against Spain by scoring first looks a no-brainer, with winnings of £150 on offer for anyone backing him with their free £25 bet for registering with bwin.
Ireland’s defence may crack if Italy go one up and Di Natale would be one of the first to exploit any breach. He’s quoted at 5/1 to score two or more goals or if you want to play it safe, he’s at evens to score at any time.
This may begin to sound repetitive, but Claudio Marchisio keeps finding himself one-on-one with some of Europe’s best goalkeepers, before fluffing his lines at the last second.
In fact, against Croatia, he spurned two chances up against Stipe Pletikosa. Still, he’s managed to get himself in those positions regularly, so it’s only a question of time before he finally manages to find the back of the net – I’ll be backing him again at 3/1.
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