Andrea Belotti could further underline his status as Italy’s current go-to striker when the Azzurri host Germany in a San Siro clash that should produce the usual fireworks between the European giants.
Having marked his full debut with the opener in a 3-1 World Cup qualifying win over Macedonia last month, the Torino striker pressed his case with a first Italy brace in a 4-0 rout of Liechtenstein on Saturday.
Still neck in neck with Spain, who are also on 10 points, at the top of Group G, Italy should revert to their usual 3-5-2 for Tuesday’s friendly after opting for a highly-effective 4-2-4 formation in Vaduz.
With Brazil-born striker Eder likely to miss out after picking up a knock and Graziano Pelle still sidelined for disciplinary reasons, Belotti could start alongside Lazio forward Ciro Immobile, the welcome recipient of an assist from the 22-year-old starlet.
Combined, Belotti and Immobile have now scored seven of Italy’s last nine goals — not a surprising statistic given the fact they both played under current Italy handler Gian Piero Ventura at Torino before he took over the Azzurri.
“I suppose it helped,” Belotti said as he lapped up the plaudits on Saturday when Italy could have scored far more.
“We scored four in the opening half although we could have scored just as many after the break.”
With the focus now on beating Spain to top spot that guarantees entry to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Germany will be a few steps up.
Yet hopes of a win over Joachim Low’s men, who won a March 2016 friendly 4-1 in Munich before beating Italy on penalties at the quarter-final stage of Euro 2016 last summer, should be high.
Low, who set a new record tally of 95 wins for a Germany coach when the ‘Mannschaft’ pummelled San Marino 8-0 on Friday, is expected to use Tuesday’s game to experiment with one eye on next year’s Confederations Cup.
Juventus midfielder Sami Khedira and Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil are both set to be rested, meaning a likely debut for Wolfsburg’s Yannick Gerhardt.
With regular skipper Manuel Neuer out with a virus, Bayer Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno will be in Germany’s goal with Bayern Munich forward Thomas Mueller set to wear the captain’s armband.
Toni Kroos (foot) and Jerome Boateng (knee and groin) are both sidelined.
Former Arsenal midfielder Serge Gnabry, now with Werder Bremen, is set for his second start after scoring a hat-trick on Friday to become the first German in 40 years to score three goals on his senior debut. He should line up with 19-year-old fellow debutant, right back Benjamin Henrichs.
Germany are also preparing for the Milan fixture with some well-deserved RnR: they were scheduled for a city tour of Rome Sunday and audience with the Pope on Monday.
Former Lazio striker Miroslav Klose – the latest addition to Germany’s coaching staff – was also set to show the squad a few of the Eternal City’s finer eating establishments.
But when it comes to Tuesday, Germany’s Roman holiday will be over, says Italy team manager Daniele Oriali.
“With Germany, it’s never a friendly,” said Oriali. “Every time we play them it ends up being a spectacular combat.”
Ventura said he saw some “classy football” against Liechtenstein and although Germany will prove much tougher, he said: “The quality of our game is steadily improving.
“Now, we face Germany but I don’t expect to see the fruits of all our efforts until further on in the future.”
For Belotti, one of several up and coming Azzurri, it’s still a dream come true: “Myself and a few of the other younger lads give it everything in training and games because we all know this is a dream for us.
“This was our first game in the new formation, we saw plenty of positives but we know we can be better.” – Agence France-Presse