Monday 18 December 2017

Prandelli hopes improved Italy can break duck against Croatia

There is no better time for Italy to beat Croatia for the first time in a competitive game than in today's European Championship showdown in Poznan.

The Italians take on the Group C leaders needing a win to keep up their hopes of progressing to the next round.

Italy held holders Spain to a 1-1 draw in their pool opener while Croatia beat Ireland 3-1. "We face a very complicated game," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. "Our aim is to win because, I reiterate, this is a key match for us."

The Azzurri go into the encounter at Poznan's Municipal Stadium looking to halt a four-match winless run.

Prandelli's side showed a vast improvement on Sunday against Spain. but need to step up their game against Croatia.

"This is a different rival to Spain and even more dangerous because Croatia can change their style of play during a game," Prandelli said. "Croatia are unpredictable; we need to be all the more prepared than we were against Spain."

Prandelli could make some changes to the squad, but Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli is set to keep his place in attack alongside Antonio Cassano. Reports claimed Prandelli was considering benching Balotelli, who had an under-par display against the Spaniards, in favour of Antonio Di Natale.

Di Natale replaced Balotelli against Spain and found the target to end a 360-minute goalscoring drought for the Azzurri. "My idea is not to make many changes with respect to the game against Spain, but I will evaluate the situation," Prandelli said.

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic is looking forward to locking horns with Prandelli. "Everyone saw how good Italy are," said Bilic, whose first victory as Croatia coach was against Italy in August 2006.

"We played very well against Ireland," he said. "We outplayed them physically, tactically and psychologically. We must remain at this level to win."

Italy v Croatia,

Live, RTE2/BBC1, 5.0

Irish Independent

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