Completely avoiding the mediocre boredom that was Saturday's game, the Azzurri get a fresh start against an opponent looking to leap frog into a qualification spot in the Group B standings, which currently look like this:
France 19pts (8GP)
Scotland 18pts (8GP)
Italia 17pts (8GP)
Ukraine 13pts (7GP)
Scotland I'm not so worried about. France should beat them relatively easily, as should the Azzurri when they meet again in qualifying on November 17th. Ukraine I am worried about. Not only do they have a game in hand, but they're highly underrated, very good and (the majority) have the advantage of playing in a league that runs throughout the summer, putting them in mid-season form in a vastly difficult climate. A win vaults puts them right in the mix with their next two games against the Faroe Islands and Lithuania, which is code for "a quick 6 points".
So, I think we can easily say: Must win game. Should they win? Absolutely. The reigning champs take an embarrassing amount of talent, experience and a winning mentality into Kiev. But will they win? Maybe. There are just too many questions right now. Will Donadoni be out-thought? Will the same creatively challenged team from the San Siro show up? Will the strike force resemble a roaring lion or a terrified kitten? Will Gennaro Gattuso get sent off and/or kill somebody? Will Donadoni field Gigi Buffon and 10 central midfielders? Will a nuclear disaster render the game moot? See, just way too many questions to be answered right now.
Keepers: Amelia (Livorno), Buffon (Juventus), Curci (Roma)
Defenders: Barzagli (Palermo), F Cannavaro (Real Madrid), Chiellini (Juventus), Gamberini (Fiorentina), Grosso (Lyon), Oddo (Milan), Panucci (Roma), Zambrotta (Barcelona)
Midfielders: Ambrosini (Milan), Aquilani (Roma), Camoranesi (Juventus), De Rossi (Roma), Foggia (Cagliari), Gattuso (Milan), Perrotta (Roma), Pirlo (Milan)
Strikers: Del Piero (Juventus), Di Natale (Udinese), Iaquinta (Juventus), Inzaghi (Milan), C Lucarelli (Shakhtar Donetsk), Quagliarella (Udinese)
Ukraine (lineup from the Georgia game because I couldn't find anything else):
* 1 Olexandr Shovkovskiy
* 5 Volodymyr Yezerskiy
* 6 Andriy Rusol
* 3 Olexandr Kucher
* 4 Anatoliy Tymoschuk
* 14 Ruslan Rotan
* 18 Serhiy Nazarenko
* 9 Oleh Gusev
* 8 Oleh Shelayev
* 7 Andriy Shevchenko
* 10 Andriy Voronin
* 23 Andriy Pyatov
* 22 Olexandr Grytsay
* 19 Maxym Kalynychenko
* 13 Dmytro Chygrynskiy
* 21 Konstyantyn Kravchenko
* 17 Olexiy Gay
* 20 Olexandr Gladkiy
Tactics & Lineup
Rumors abound that The Don Dada will be switching up to an attacking 4-2-3-1, a formation that has worked offensive wonders for a certain Serie A team which shall go nameless. The formation is simple: run your ass off, especially on the wings, attack, attack, attack, and defend. It's not exactly a "play for the nil-nil draw" formation.
Basically the entire team is healthy and only Ivan The Terrible is suspended because, well, he's a fucking animal, but I think we'll see a few changes here. There is no reason to change the back four, and Gigi is between the sticks as long as Gigi damn well pleases. But they'll all certainly have their hands full with the Andriys: Shevchenko and Voronin. Andrea Pirlo is healthy and absolutely should be playing the full 90, as he was easily the best player with any offensive ability against France. His partner should be Daniele De Rossi, who got a few blisters on his feet Saturday but will be able to tough it out tomorrow (get rid of the damn Adidas boots). If not Massimo Ambrosini will probably get the spot because, well, he plays for Milan. Same as that Donadoni guy. Either Simone Perrotta or Alberto Aquilani* will probably play at trequartista, and one will probably replace the other at some point. Up top will probably be Cristiano Lucarelli, whose name is written all over this game, seeing as how he plays in the UPL and all. Flanking The Commie will probably be the biggest question. One seemingly obvious choice would be Fabio Quagliarella, who has been awesome ever since he first put on the shirt, but there is still little explanation as to why Antonio Di Natale is put on the bench ahead of him on Saturday. Who the hell knows. At this point the best guess would be Alex Del Piero and either Di Natale or Fab Quag's flanking Lucarelli.
* - If Aquilani doesn't play in this whole trip my next post is going to be titled: Why Roberto Donadoni Needs To Die.
My Preferred Lineup:
Panucci, Barzagli, Canna, Zambrotta;
De Rossi, Pirlo;
Quags, Aquilani, Del Piero;
I know Del Piero isn't ideal, but he's really the lesser of the evils. Iaquinta or Di Natale are potential options, or maybe even Simone Perrotta; after all, this is where Lippi used him last summer. DDR and King Alberto are so gifted and both have played so well to start the year that it's hard to leave either out of the XI. I put Panucci in for his attacking abilities and knowledge of the system. Other that, pretty self-explanatory.
Score: 2-0 Italia
Goals: Aquilani 37', Quagliarella 49'
Time: 20:45 Italian time, 2:45 EST US.