ADAM GOODWIN (@agjournalism) searches for the best value betting opportunities from Monday night's World Cup 2018 qualifying play-off between Italy and Sweden.
Italy v Sweden| Monday 13th November 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
It’s advantage Sweden when they head to the San Siro on Monday, thanks to a 1-0 win over the Italians in the first leg. Jakob Johansson’s goal was the difference in Solna on Friday, and Sweden was well worth their victory.
They were the better team in the first half, and while the Azzurri slightly improved after half-time, they were still disappointing.
Italy have to capitalise on the away goal rule
Italy manager Giampiero Ventura says his side need a “great performance” in the second leg of this playoff and it’ll have to be a lot better than what they produced in the first-leg. Swedish keeper Robin Olsen only had to make two saves all night and an attack that consisted of Ciro Immobile, Andrea Belotti and Lorenzo Insigne were far from potent.
Marco Veratti was shown a needless yellow card on Friday, meaning he is suspended for the crucial second-leg. Before the first-leg, Zlatan Ibrahimovic said “there is no one better than [Veratti]”, which highlights how well thought of the Italian midfielder is by his fellow pros.
Napoli’s dynamic Jorginho is likely to replace him in the starting XI, and whilst he has been one of Serie A’s finest players this season, Veratti has big boots to fill.
As I mentioned before the first leg, this could be Gianluigi Buffon’s last game in an Italy shirt, and that’s now looking increasingly likely. The legendary shot-stopper has been a great servant to his national team and he must keep a clean sheet on Monday.
If he doesn’t, Italy will need to score at least three to qualify, due to the away goal rule.
Former Azzurri midfielder Andrea Pirlo has rubbished claims that home advantage will benefit Italy on Monday, by stating: “The San Siro can’t score. I’ve never seen a fan score a goal.”
Recently retired, Pirlo seems far from confident about his nation's chances of qualifying.
Forsberg could feature prominently for the Swedes
If you need any reason to watch this match on Monday, listen to Marcus Berg. After the first-leg on Friday, the Sweden striker said: “I knew there would be war tonight and it will be a damn war on Monday.”
The Italians, usually known for their recklessness and ferocity, couldn’t handle the Swedes aggression in the first-leg.
Ola Toivonen fractured Leonardo Bonucci’s nose within the first minute of the match, and that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Janne Andersson obviously wanted to give the Italians a taste of their own medicine, and it was met with anger by Giampiero Ventura who said he hopes that in Milan “the officials give to [Italy] what they granted to [Sweden] here.”
There were some fantastic passages of play by Sweden and, along with their ferociousness, there were some neat, intricate football that the Italians were vulnerable to.
Emil Forsberg is a player that I rate extremely highly, and he was at the heart of a lot of Sweden’s good attacking play on Friday – he will be key if the Swedes are to secure another positive result on Monday.
The betting angle
Italy’s last result at the San Siro was a 1-1 draw with Macedonia, which highlights how poor they’ve been under boss Giampiero Ventura. They lacked creativity in the first-leg, so it’s tough to predict how they’ll approach this game.
Will they aim to keep it tight and nick a goal or two on the break? Or will they back themselves to score a hatful and throw caution to the wind? At home, I fancy the latter, which should supply us with a cracking game at the San Siro.
I fancied both teams to score in the reverse fixture, and although it didn’t come in, I think it will on Monday. Over 3.5 goals is 18/5 with 888 Sport and I think it’ll be a goal fest in Milan on Monday.
I also like the look of the 19/20 with BetStars on Sweden to qualify. I think they will score against a less than resolute Italy defence, and that would mean Italy would need to notch at least three.
Watching their first leg performance, they’re not capable of that, so back the Swedes to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
Italy v Sweden – Over 3.5 goals (18/5 888 Sport)
Italy v Sweden – Sweden to qualify (19/20 BetStars)