Denmark vs. Italy, 2014 World Cup qualifying: Preview and TV schedule

Claudio Villa

Italy may have already qualified for next year's finals, but will still provide a stern test for Denmark.

The Azzurri stamped their pass for Brazil last month, having wrapped up Group B with two games to spare. However, the playoff spot is still very much up for grabs.

Bulgaria (13) are one point better off than the Danes, who in turn, are three points ahead of the Czech Republic and Armenia. That picture will become a lot clearer after this current round of games, with Denmark needing at least a point to stay in realistic contention. Eight of the nine second-placed sides will compete in the playoffs. The team that finishes second with the lowest number of points scored will miss out completely.

After a stuttering start to their campaign, Denmark come into this game on the back of consecutive victories over Malta and Armenia. However, none of their three qualifying victories in this campaign have come at home. A shock 4-0 loss to Armenia back in June highlights the unpredictability of the Danes on Scandinavian soil.

Italy laboured to victory over Bulgaria and the Czechs last month to maintain their unbeaten qualifying record. Cesare Prandelli's side will be keen to keep that record intact and, more importantly, preserve their current FIFA world ranking of #4 ahead of next Thursday's new listings.

Morten Olsen can call on the likes of Daniel Agger, Simon Kjaer and Christian Eriksen to lead the home side's charge. Nicklas Bendtner is also back in the squad for the first time in six months, following a ban imposed by the Danish FA for a drink-driving incident earlier in the year.

Giuseppe Rossi has returned to the Italian fold after a two year absence. The Fiorentina striker has put two injury plagued seasons behind him, impressing with five goals so far for his new club. Federico Balzaretti also returns for the first time since last November and Claudio Marchisio is back after an injury layoff. Marco Verratti, Mario Balotelli and Lorenzo Insigne are all carrying injuries and will miss the game, but could recover in time to feature against Armenia on Tuesday.

Italy won the reverse fixture 3-1 at this point last year. Pablo Osvaldo saw red for the Azzurri in that match, but the Southampton forward could be employed as a lone forward, with support from Alessandro Diamanti and either Emanuele Giaccherini or Antonio Candreva in a 4-3-2-1 formation. Should Prandelli not want to risk a repeat of Osvaldo's temper, then Alberto Gilardino is another attacking option.

Gianluigi Buffon will become Italy's most-capped player should he be selected for his 137th game. The Juventus goalkeeper is currently tied for the record number of Azzurri appearances with former defender Fabio Cannavaro.

Match date/time: Friday, 8:15 p.m. local, 2:15 p.m. ET

Venue: Parken, Copenhagen, Denmark

TV: RAI Internazionale (U.S.)

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