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Bulgaria vs Italy: Predictions
Under Roberto Mancini, Italy qualified for Euro 2020 with a flawless record, winning all 10 of their Group J games, and they have now taken that form into the World Cup qualifiers, securing a curtain-raising win over Northern Ireland in midweek, while Bulgaria, by contrast, capitulated against Switzerland.
The four-time World Cup winners were in the groove on Thursday night, collecting a clean sheet in Parma and firing two past Ian Baraclough’s Green and White Army, with Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile getting the job done in the first half, in a fairly routine night for Gli Azzurri.
Bulgaria meanwhile were made to pay for a pedestrian start to their contest against Switzerland, with Yasen Petrov’s men almost catatonic as Rossocrociati raced into a 3-0 lead with only 13 minutes on the clock. Kiril Despodov nabbed a consolation after the restart, but not enough to mount a comeback.
So, the pressure is already on the hosts to clinch a result against Italy, but under Mancini the visitors have been exhibiting signs of the halcyon days of the 2010s and will be desperate to seal qualification as soon as possible to remedy the heartache of missing out on Russia 2018.
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Bulgaria vs Italy: Match Stats
Mancini’s Italy can best be described as a thoroughly efficient side, winning games through sheer organisation, discipline and professionalism, rather than outright flair or panache, which may explain their recent first-place finish Group A1 during autumn’s Nations League, going unbeaten in six games, but not playing out a single contest with more than 2.5 goals, instead winning by 1-0s and 2-0s while grinding out draws and keeping four cleans sheets.
That pattern of play was evident against Northern Ireland and will perhaps be how Italy approach these qualifiers, again running out comfortable 2-0 victors without driving the stake too hard, with Ciro Immobile once again getting on the scoresheet and carrying over his Serie A form to the international stage.
These nations have made a habit of meeting in qualifiers for both European Championships and World Cups since the turn of the century, but it has been predominantly Italy who have triumphed in the round robins, most recently topping Group H in the qualifiers for Euro 2016, with Antonio Conte’s side securing a 2-0 win on home turf and collecting a point away from home in a 2-2 draw.