Armenia remain in the hunt for the World Cup playoffs. However, they must beat Group B winners Italy in Naples and hope that other results go their way. Given their inconsistent record of four wins and five losses during qualifying, that's easier said than done. Especially when they're facing an Italian side yet to be beaten in this qualifying campaign and who eased to a 3-1 victory in the reverse fixture last October.
Despite their chequered run of results, Vardan Minasyan has seen his side record some impressive victories on the road. Both Denmark (4-0) and Czech Republic (2-1) can attest to that. Armenia edged past Bulgaria 2-1 on Friday night to give themselves an outside chance of qualifying.
Group B is still very much wide open for a possible playoff place. Armenia and the Czechs are locked on 12 points, with Bulgaria and Denmark both a point better off. Only eight of the nine runners-up will advance to the playoffs.The second placed team with the lowest number of points scored will miss out. Sounds pretty straightforward in theory. However, this is where things get a bit complicated. With Group I having one less team, UEFA came up with a rankings system which discounts results that teams get against the sixth placed sides to try and make things fairer. Confused? Yes. As things stand, this group currently seems to be the unlucky one due to how results have played out. Because Armenia are the only team in the group to have dropped points against bottom placed Malta, they stand the best chance of netting a playoff place should they pull off a famous victory and finish second. For the other teams in the group, the outlook doesn't look as good.
The Italians needed a last gasp Alberto Aquilani strike to secure a 2-2 draw against Denmark in Copenhagen on Friday night. Cesare Prandelli will want to guard against complacency and finish the campaign on a high, especially on home turf.
Gianluigi Buffon became the most capped player in Italy's history when he made his 137th appearance on Friday night. The veteran shotstopper could make way for this game to give Lazio's Federico Marchetti a chance to impress.
Mario Balotelli missed Friday's game through injury, but has remained with the squad and could play some part in this game. Pablo Osvaldo netted the first of Italy's two goals against the Danes and the forward is expected to keep his place in the side. Emanuele Giaccherini, Alessandro Diamanti and Antonio Candreva will be competing to provide attacking support. Andrea Ranocchia could get another runout in defence.
Spartak Moscow forward Yura Movsisyan and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan are the key players that Armenia will rely on, with 39-year-old Roman Berezovsky captaining the side in goal. Coach Minasyan is sweating on the fitness of defender Robert Arzumanyan and midfielder Aras Ozbiliz after both came off injured in the Bulgaria victory. Nonetheless, he is expected to keep faith with his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation.
Match Date/Time: Tuesday, 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET
Venue: Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy
TV: Rai Uno (Italy),