Greece welcome Italy in the European Championship qualification stages on Saturday night, kicking off at 9:45pm local time in Athens.

Home Team: Greece

Greece shocked the world by winning the European Championships in 2004, but haven’t had a lot of success in this competition since. They qualified for the Championships in 2008, but lost every game, and then failed to qualify for them in 2016 with an embarrassing qualification showing. They’ll hope they don’t repeat that travesty, and so far the signs have been more promising. In their first two matches, they were able to beat Liechtenstein away from home, before drawing away at Bosnia. Taking four points was the target prior to those matches, and now have an opportunity to put themselves in a great position if they were to get a critical result here. Defender Sokratis of Arsenal, will be key if Greece are to keep Italy out. Can Greece turn back the clock and produce a determined performance to get one point closer to qualification?

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Away Team: Italy

Italian fans would have felt something new in the autumn of 2017, as they failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years. The World Cup felt strange without them, but it’s hard to say that an Italian side being there would have improved the entertainment of a truly phenomenal World Cup. Italy will know that they have to progress for the European Championships, and Roberto Mancini will make sure he doesn’t fail in doing so. The side have started in prolific fashion, by scoring 8 goals in two wins against Finland and Liechtenstein, without conceding a goal. The superstars of Italy include their defensive backline with Juventus duo Georgio Chiellini and Leanardo Bonucci, with playmakers Jorginho and Marco Veratti in midfield providing a strong core. Are this Italian side capable of bringing them back to their best?

Head to Head

The sides have met 17 times in their history, with only three of them being in competitive fixtures. Granted, some of the 17 fixtures have been in a cup (Mediterranean Cup), but it’s not recognised as a major tournament. Those three competitive matches have all been in World Cup qualifiers, with Italy winning 4-0 way back in 1934. They also met more recently in the 1980’s, qualifying for the 1982 World Cup. Italy won 2-0 in Greece, with the sides playing out a 1-1 draw in the return fixture. The two teams have only played one friendly in this side of the millennium, with the sides also drawing in that game too – another 1-1 in 2008. Greece haven’t beaten Italy since 1972, only their 2nd victory against Italy, whilst the Italians have won 10.

Predictions and Betting Tips

Greece are outsiders at 10/3 to get the victory here, with them at 2/1 to earn a draw. For the visitors to win, they are priced at 19/20. Italy have been in free-scoring form in their two recent qualifiers, but the opposition level hasn’t been fantastic. Nonetheless, I expect them to get a win here in Greece, and would tip a 2-1 score line at 9/1.

To boost odds even further, add Ciro Immobile (Italian) to score first in a score cast of that score line at 28/1. Italy may win it narrowly, so backing them to win by a 1-goal margin at 9/4 seems to be the way to go. Predicting over 2.5 goals in my score line is a bit bold, so if you feel it will be a cagey game, then backing there to be less than 2.5 goals at 2/5 – I wouldn’t hold it against you.

Finally, if you think Greece can end 47 years of hurt and finally beat Italy, you can back them to win to nil at 11/2.

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