Italy seek crucial morale-boosting win over Israel

REGGIO EMILIA (Italy) • A bruised Italy will look to turn the page on a World Cup qualifying drubbing by Spain when they host Israel in Reggio Emilia today.

The Azzurri need three points to consolidate second place in Group G behind Spain (19 points) and stay safely clear of third-placed Albania (12), as they look to make it to the Finals in Russia next year.

Giampiero Ventura's side were outclassed by Spain 3-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Today's challenge against Israel at the Mapei Stadium in northern Italy has become all the more important as the four-time world champions look to regain confidence, with a two-legged play-off now looking increasingly likely if they are to reach the World Cup.

"A bad defeat which will help us grow... now grit and determination for Tuesday," said midfielder Antonio Candreva.

Israel - seven points behind Italy (16) - are coming off a 1-0 defeat by Macedonia (6), their fourth of the campaign.

But Ventura has defensive worries. Giorgio Chiellini is still out with a calf problem along with Leonardo Bonucci, who picked up a booking on Saturday, and Leonardo Spinazzola, injured in the last few minutes in Spain.

New Chelsea recruit Davide Zappacosta was hastily called up to training in Florence on Sunday as Ventura looks to put together a makeshift defence.

Juventus duo Andrea Barzagli and Daniele Rugani could start together in central defence, with Andrea Conti on the right and Manchester United's Matteo Darmian moved to the opposite side.

Italy need Spain to lose one of their remaining qualifying games against Liechtenstein, Albania and Israel to have any hope of avoiding the play-offs.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ITALY V ISRAEL

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2017, with the headline 'Italy seek crucial morale-boosting win over Israel'. Print Edition | Subscribe