Azzurri now have Roberto Mancini as a new head coach and he takes charge of his first competitive fixture
International football’s newest competition – the UEFA Nations League – is set to kick off this week, and one team desperate to make a positive start to the tournament will be Italy. The Azzurri welcome Poland to Bologna on Friday night and, having missed out in the World Cup earlier this summer, will be looking to lay down a serious marker of intent in this clash.
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It came as a slight shock when Italy – world champions as recently as 2006 – failed to make it to Russia this summer. Sweden got the better of them in the play-off tie but now, with Roberto Mancini at the helm of the ship, they will be keen to get off on the right foot in the UEFA Nations League.
And it is Italy who come into this game as clear favourites to make a winning start to the European tournament. The home side are at just 1.72 to take all three points, while Poland are out at 4.75 to record a win on their travels, with a draw somewhere in the middle at 3.60, according to Oddsshark.
However, despite his impressive credentials, Mancini has made a mixed start to life in the national hot seat. Three friendly matches have brought a win, a draw and a loss, their only success coming against a poor Saudi Arabia outfit.
Current world champions got the better of them, while Holland – another side who failed to make it to Russia – left the game with honours even. Poland could well offer a sterner test than many have initially envisaged.
Poland finished higher than the likes of Romania and Denmark to make it to Russia, although they did not exactly pull up and trees once they were there. Successive defeats to Senegal and Colombia signalled the end of their World Cup adventure before it had ever really begun, although they did manage to beat Japan in their final group outing to at least go out on a high.
And given the fact they made it to Russia whereas Italy could not means they may well be confident of taking all three points. And while it is never easy to predict the exact score line of any given match, a narrow 1-0 win for Poland is priced at 9.00, thereby offering close to a ten-fold return on any investment.
However, there is no denying that the technical quality at Mancini’s disposal is huge, and they can be expected to win with relative ease. A comfortable, 2-0 win for Italy is priced at 7.00, meaning that a US$5 bet would lead to a US$35 pay out.
Poland’s record against Italy is by no means disastrous, but it is the Azzurri who most certainly have the upper hand. In 14 previous meetings between Italy and Poland, the former have won five with the Polish winning only three, and six matches resulting in a stalemate.
Both sides will be looking to make up for recent disappointments and there is plenty of firepower on both sides. This could be a hugely entertaining spectacle for those in attendance.
Poland’s best chance of a goal would look to come in the form of Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. The forward is at just 3.00 to get on the score sheet on Friday night, while that price doubles to 6.00 if you think he will bag the first or last goal of the game.
And for Italy, the one to watch could well be Nice striker Mario Balotelli. The 28 year old is at 2.75 to net against Poland and 5.50 to open the scoring – meanwhile, you can back him at the competitive price of 11.00 if you think Balotelli will score two goals or more.
Looking closely at the game there should not be too many problems for the home side. You can back Italy to win to nil (without Poland scoring a goal) at 2.50, while they are at 3.25 to score in both halves of the match.
UEFA Nations League fixtures:
Friday, 7 September
(2.05) Azerbaijan x Kosovo (3.80); draw (3.20)
(2.15) Albania x Israel (3.75); draw (3.00)
(1.70) Faroe Islands x Malta (5.75); draw (3.25)
(1.72) Italy x Poland (4.75); draw (3.60)
(7.50) Lithuania x Serbia (1.50); draw (3.75)
(1.75) Romania x Montenegro (5.25); draw (3.25)
(2.25) Turkey x Russia (3.50); draw (3.00)