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Match Preview: Bulgaria vs. Italy - European Qualifiers Group H

Italy sit on top of group H tied at 10 points with Croatia after 4 games as they take on a thus far disappointing Bulgaria team.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Match Facts:

Date: Saturday, March 28, 2015

Time: 3:45pm ET/ 20:45 CET

Venue: Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski; Sofia, Bulgaria

Fifth game of this European Qualifiers group stage which features, as well as Bulgaria vs. Italia, a bottom teams face off between Azerbaijan and Malta and a more interesting and more important in terms of standings Croatia vs. Norway.

The Italian training camp started with what appeared at first a bad news: Claudio Marchisio suffered a torn ACL and he should have missed the next at least 6 months of football. The news was devastating for both Italian and Juventus fans, but in the evening, things got weird. Marchisio, after the diagnosis made in Florence by the Italian national team staff, underwent two more magnetic resonances in Torino by the Juventus staff denying the first verdict: no torn ligaments for the hard-working midfielder who may even play the next game for the Bianconeri.

Italy has yet to lose a match in this group stage as they face a Bulgarian team which made only 4 points in 4 games, drawing against Malta and winning only against Azerbaijan, certainly the least talented team of the group. We know from experience though that the Azzurri tend to live this challenges with a laid-back attitude that many times resulted in them wasting easy points and collecting poor figures against weaker sides.

17 times these two national teams faced each other, and Italy had the best of Bulgaria 9 times, drawing 6 times and losing only two matches. Last time they met, in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers group stage, the Bulgarian forced to an away draw the opponents, but they lost the other because of a Gilardino goal.

Italy plan to carry on their impressive streak of 44 games without a loss in qualifying matches for all the competitions with 33 wins and only 11 draws. Their last defeat go back to September 6, 2006 against France, a re-match of the 2006 World Cup final that happened less than two months before, but that time Italy came out as winner.

The only Inter Milan player that has been called up by Antonio Conte is our captain Andrea Ranocchia who, after a bad spell, is playing well recently even though the club is accumulating disappointing results match after match.

Projected Starting XIs

Bulgaria(4-2-3-1): Stoyanov; Bandalovski, Terziev, Bodurov, Minev; Dyakov, Gadzhev; Manolev, Popov, Tonev; Bojinov.

Coach: Petev.

Italy(3-5-2): Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Darmian, Candreva, Verratti, Bertolacci, Antonelli; Zaza, Immobile.

Coach: Conte.


ITALY: Sirigu, Chiellini, Bonucci, Barzagli, Bertolacci, Verratti, Candreva, Antonelli, Darmian, Immobile, Zaza

BULGARIA: Mihaylov, Minev, Manolev, Aleksandrov, Alexandrov, Popov, Milanov, Gadzhev, Dyakov, Micanski