Italy has a stranglehold on Group C in Euro 2012 qualifying, but second-place Serbia is still battling it out with third-place Estonia and fourth-place Slovenia to see who will make it into the playoff round by finishing in second place. Serbia will have their hands full on Oct 7th when taking on leaders Italy at home.
Italy tops the group with 22 points from seven wins and a draw in eight games and have already qualified for Euro 2012 since they can’t be caught. Serbia is behind them with 14 points from four wins, two draws and two losses and they also have a game in hand over Estonia and Slovenia and that could be crucial if they lose to Italy. Northern Ireland is still alive mathematically with nine points and two games remaining, which are at home to Estonia and away to Italy.
The Serbians can clinch second place with a win against Italy in Belgrade or a victory in Slovenia in their last game on Oct. 11th. If they fail to do so, anything could happen concerning second place.
Italy has named a strong side for their last two games and won’t be easy to beat. Midfielder Luca Cigarini, who plays for Atalanta, has been called up which is a bit of a surprise and he’s only been named to the squad once before back in 2010. In addition, defender Andrea Barzagli has been called up for the first time since 2008. Federico Balzaretti and Giampaolo Pazzini are questionable for the game, but manager Cesare Prandelli is confident they’ll be back for Oct 11th if they can’t play against Serbia.
Serbian manager Vladimir Petrovic called up midfielder Luka Milivojevic and defender Marko Simic for their first games. He also named Milan Bisevac and Nemanja Vidic to the squad even though they’re both injured. Dragan Mrdja, Nikola Zigic, and Milos Krasic all return after being out with injuries.
Serbia has won two, lost two and drawn one in their last five games, but are winless in their last three. Italy goes into the game with four wins and a loss in their last five.
If Serbia fails to make the playoffs they have only themselves to blame. Actually they can blame their fans as they had their first game against Italy called off in Italy last October due to crowd trouble. Italy was awarded a 3-0 win by default. If it wasn’t for that, Serbia may already have qualified.
Serbia should be able to do enough to earn a draw against Italy, but if they fall behind we have to hope the crowd behaves.
Sportsbook William Hill has the odds of a Serbia win at 5/4 and an Italy win at 23/10 with a draw at 11/5.
Goalkeepers: Bojan Jorgačević (KAA Gent), Damir Kahriman (SC Tavrya Simferopol), Bojan Šaranov (Maccabi Haifa FC)
Defenders: Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea FC), Nenad Tomović (US Lecce), Neven Subotić (Borussia Dortmund), Nemanja Vidić (Manchester United FC), Milan Biševac (Paris Saint-Germain FC), Marko Simić (FC BATE Borisov), Milan Vilotić (FK Crvena zvezda), Slobodan Rajković (Hamburger SV), Aleksandar Kolarov (Manchester City FC), Duško Tošić (Real Betis Balompié)
Midfielders: Dejan Stanković (FC Internazionale Milano), Zdravko Kuzmanović (VfB Stuttgart), Radosav Petrović (Blackburn Rovers FC), Ljubomir Fejsa (Olympiacos FC), Miloš Ninković (FC Dynamo Kyiv), Luka Milivojević (FK Rad), Miloš Krasić (Juventus), Nemanja Tomić (FK Partizan), Zoran Tošić (PFC CSKA Moskva), Adem Ljajić (ACF Fiorentina), Milan Jovanović (RSC Anderlecht)
Forwards: Marko Pantelić (Olympiacos FC), Nikola Žigić (Birmingham City FC), Dragan Mrdja (FC Sion)
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (SSC Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain FC)
Defenders: Davide Astori (Cagliari Calcio), Federico Balzaretti (US Città di Palermo), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Mattia Cassani (ACF Fiorentina), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (SSC Napoli)
Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (AC Milan), Luca Cigarini (Atalanta BC), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (ACF Fiorentina), Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Manchester City FC), Antonio Cassano (AC Milan), Sebastian Giovinco (Parma FC), Giampaolo Pazzini (FC Internazionale Milano), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal CF)