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The domestic football season has only just begun but it is already time for an international break. Thankfully, unlike some international breaks, the matches ahead of us are far from meaningless friendlies. We’ve got two pivotal rounds of fixtures in qualifying for the World Cup and the pick of the action comes from the Bernabeu where Spain host Italy.
Two of the giants of European international football, Spain and Italy are joint on 16 points in Group G after six games. Neither team have yet been beaten in qualifying but it is Spain who top the group on goal difference.
With both sides holding a distinct advantage in terms of quality over the others in Group G, the winner of Friday night’s match will be odds on favourites to kick on, win the group and book their place in the World Cup. The loser will surely have to make do with a place in the playoffs and we all know that anything can happen over the course of one two-legged tie.
With such a big prize on the line this is sure to be a tense encounter between two sides who both believe they have what it takes to secure the three points.
Spain 17/20 (Bet365)
Draw 9/4 (Betfred)
Italy 17/4 (Bet365)
Spain’s home advantage helps to make them favourites at the Bernabeu but anybody who saw the first Group G match between these two will understand why Julen Lopetegui’s men are available at odds on. A Daniele De Rossi penalty in the last 10 minutes was enough for Italy to secure a 1-1 draw in Turin but it was Spain who had the vast majority of the play. In fact, the away team had around 63% of possession, they had six more shots than their opponents and 11 more corners.
In the end it was a combination of Spain being unable to take their chances and a late mistake that cost them the win and the chance to get into a dominant position in Group G. Lopetegui knows that his players must be more ruthless in front of goal in the return match. Italy may have got a little lucky in Turin but they’ve been very good in the rest of their qualifying campaign, having scored 18 goals and conceded just four in total.
Gian Piero Ventura’s squad may not have the star quality of the Spain squad but he’s been able to get the best out of them to the extent that he’s been rewarded with a new contract until 2020. Spain are worthy favourites but Italy have enough about them to secure another draw at 9/4 with Betfred.
Spain 1-0 @ 9/2 (Coral)
Draw 1-1 @ 6/1 (William Hill)
Draw 0-0 @ 7/1 (William Hill)
Spain 2-0 @ 13/2 (Bet365)
Spain 2-1 @ 8/1 (Ladbrokes)
Italy 1-0 @ 10/1 (Paddy Power)
The odds in the Correct Score market make it abundantly clear that the bookies believe this is going to be another close encounter between Spain and Italy. This fixture has only been won by a margin or two or more goals once since the end of World War II and the last four meetings have resulted in two draws and a win for each side.
Even if one of the two sides is able to get the win they’ll more than likely steal it by just a single goal. If you’re having a Correct Score bet it makes sense to back a repeat of the 1-1 score line from October 2016 which is 6/1 with William Hill or the 2-1 option either way depending on which side you think is most likely to win.
Alvaro Morata 9/2 (Bet365)
Iago Aspa 11/2 (Bet365)
David Villa 6/1 (Sky Bet)
Pedro 6/1 (Betfred)
Andrea Belotti 7/1 (Bet365)
Suso 8/1 (Betfred)
David Silva 17/2 (Bet365)
Marco Asensio 17/2 (Bet365)
As with many Italy squads of the past, Ventura’s current crop of players are stronger from a defensive perspective than an attacking one. Plenty of azzurri fans believe that Ventura should be more offensive in his approach but there is little chance of them taking the game to Spain. They are much more likely to sit deep, limit the space available to their opponents before taking any goalscoring opportunities that present themselves.
If Italy are to score the game’s first goal, Andrea Belotti is the man most likely to grab it. The 23-year-old is targeting a long career as Italy’s number one striker but he first needs to get his place on the plane to Russia.
Alvaro Morata is another young striker making his way as the main striker for his national team. Morata has replaced Diego Costa at Chelsea and he now has his sights set on doing the same for Spain. Morata is one of the few genuine strikers in the Spain squad and having started well at Stamford Bridge he looks a good first goalscorer bet at 9/2 with Bet365.
Match result draw at 9/4 with Betfred
Alvaro Morata to score first at 9/2 with Bet365