World Cup qualifying: Weather worry for Group B leaders Italy in Malta
Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli hopes inclement weather does not knock his Group B leaders off their stride in Malta.
Last Updated: 25/03/13 4:35pm
Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli hopes inclement weather does not knock his Group B leaders off their stride in a windswept Malta on Tuesday night.
Ten points separate Prandelli's men from the islanders - who have lost all four of their World Cup qualifying games so far - and on the evidence of Malta's 6-0 defeat in Bulgaria on Friday night, Italy perhaps have even more reason to be optimistic at Ta' Qali.
Former Fiorentina boss Prandelli, however, believes an "organised" Malta side fell foul of blustery conditions in Sofia and, with similar gusts sweeping the Mediterranean island this week, he has warned Italy's players to be on their guard.
He told a pre-match press conference: "It will only be an easy game if we play at our best and get at them in certain areas. They are a well organised side who are strong in the tackle.
"Malta are like a club side made up of players who train together at least three times a week.
"To anyone who watched Malta's game against Bulgaria where they lost 6-0, you have to realise there was a strong wind and bad weather. Moreover, they made two major errors.
"I'm worried about the possibility of strong winds here too. If you're not used to playing through wind, it can make you lose concentration."
Italy are without their suspended Roma duo of striker Pablo Osvaldo and midfielder Daniele De Rossi, with Mario Balotelli expected to partner Stephan El Shaarawy in attack buoyed by his fantastic long-range goal against Brazil last week.
The Azzurri salvaged a 2-2 draw in a Geneva-hosted friendly with a team consisting of Gianluigi Buffon in goal and Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Mattia De Sciglio across a backline that is unlikely to change for Tuesday.
Claudio Marchisio should deputise for De Rossi alongside Andrea Pirlo, Christian Maggio and Riccardo Montolivo but Prandelli is unsure which fourth midfielder he will use at the National Stadium.
"I can't give my formation away because I still have doubts over (Emanuele) Giaccherini and (Alessio) Cerci," he added. "I will make that decision about 30 minutes before the match."
Malta boss Pietro Ghedin, meanwhile, is demanding total commitment from his players after their dismal showing in Bulgaria.
The Reds are not reknowned for their goalscoring prowess but Friday night represented the first time they conceded more than three goals in a game since November 2009 when, coincidentally, they lost 4-1 to Bulgaria.
He told the Times of Malta: "We returned from Bulgaria with a heavy heart. We will try to improve on the few things we did right."
Former Italy assistant manager Ghedin is not expected to make many changes to his starting XI, save including midfielder Gareth Sciberras following his recovery from injury.
Malta's leading all-time goalscorer Michael Mifsud will hope to notch for his country for the 37th time while registering his first goal in this year's competition.