Armenia to make Italy work for win
Italy face a trip to Yerevan when they take on Armenia in their next Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday. Can the Italians overcome a surprisingly competitive Armenian side? Have a read of our preview here:
Armenia causing some shocks
The Armenia national side have never qualified for a competitive tournament, but they have shown already in this qualifying campaign that they are able to compete with their group opponents.
They kicked off qualifying with back-to-back defeats against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Finland but bounced back with an impressive 3-0 win against Liechtenstein before shocking Greece 3-2 in Athens.
The performance against Greece highlighted what a threat this team can be when they create chances. Despite having just 25% of the possession, Armenia were able to create chances thanks to the attacking guile of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the finishing ability of Sochi forward Aleksandre Karapetian and Gevog Ghazaryan.
The trio have looked sharp in qualifying and have netted five of the team's seven goals so far.
It will be their toughest test yet when they host the Italians but the win over Greece will have given Armen Gyulbudaghyants’ men some confidence in their defensive ability and counter-attacking play.
It is still a huge ask to see Armenia qualify for a national tournament but they can take heart from the qualifying campaign so far.
Azzurri making progress
Italian have made steady progress under manager Roberto Mancini. The former Manchester City boss has had to rebuild following their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and he has done a decent job so far.
The pre-qualifiers were a bit hit and miss but the team have improved as they aim to make it to Euro 2020 without drama. They have won all four of their games so far and have only conceded once in those games.
The 2-0 win over Finland was solid and they trashed Lichtenstein 6-0 before making light work of Greece. The 2-1 victory against Bosnia & Herzegovina was important even if it was a classic performance and they will be confident of keeping their 100% record against Armenia.
Fabio Quagliarella’s recall was a surprise but totally deserved and Nicolo Barella is a wonderful talent in midfield but the defence will have to make do with the injured Giorgio Chiellini. Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa are the two most important members of this team and both should start on Thursday.
Armenia v Italy betting tip
Armenia will not be an easy side to beat even though Italy are heavy favourites. They defend well and will make life hard for the Azzurri. That said, Italy should have more than enough quality to get the win but it will probably be closer than many expect. That’s why backing Italy to win by two goals at odds of 41/13 a great value here.