Czech Republic vs Italy, 2014 World Cup qualifying: Preview and TV schedule

Claudio Villa

Italy fly out to Brazil for the Confederations Cup immediately after this World Cup Qualifier against the Czech Republic. However, victory in Prague will all but book Italy’s plane ticket back to Brazil for next summer’s World Cup Finals.

The Azzurri currently lead Bulgaria by three points at the top of Group B with a game in hand and are protecting an unbeaten record. Meanwhile, the Czechs lie five points adrift of the Italians back in third place. Both sides will have four group games remaining after Friday's match.

Cesare Prandelli's side warmed up for this game with a 4-0 win over neighbouring minnows San Marino last Friday. Since that match, the squad has been reduced from 30 down to 23, with young defenders Angelo Ogbonna and Andrea Ranocchia amongst those missing the cut. Andrea Poli — who netted the opening goal in the rout, also misses out. Genoa's Luca Antonelli pulled out of the squad with an ankle injury at the beginning of the week, while disciplinary problems have put paid to Pablo Osvaldo's place in the squad.

Czech coach Michal Bilek has no major injury concerns and could keep faith with the same side that saw off Armenia 3-0 back in March. Chelsea's Petr Cech, Arsenal's Tomas Rosicky and on-loan Watford forward Matej Vydra are the key Premiership trio to look out for in the Czech side.

Stephan El Shaarawy (sprained ankle) and Andrea Barzagli (Achilles tendon) have shaken off injuries to get a few days training in ahead of the game. El Shaarawy and Alessio Cerci could flank Mario Balotelli up front, who has scored three goals in Italy's last two qualifiers.

It will be the first meeting in seven years for the both sides, with Italy winning the last game 2-0 back at the 2006 World Cup. Prior to that, the Czechs have had the upper hand, earning a 2-2 draw in a 2004 friendly and a 1-0 victory in a similar 2002 outing. The Czechs also famously upset the Italians 2-1 way back at Euro 96, which contributed to the Azzurri's early exit from the competition at the group stage.

Match Date/Time: Friday 7th June 2013 8:45 p.m. local, 2:45 p.m. ET

Venue: Generali Arena, Prague, Czech Republic

TV: RAI Uno (Italy) ESPN3, ESPN (U.S)

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