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World Cup 2018 Qualifying Game Time Thread: Italy vs. Albania

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Just a suggestion: Don’t suck like you did against Macedonia, guys.

Italy v FYR Macedonia - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

This isn’t a transfer thread, but the words need to be said anyway. The heat is on Gianpiero Ventura more than ever before. It’s officially official. He can look all around and try to find an answer, but ultimately it comes back to him and what he’s done — or, in this case, hasn’t done — as Italy’s manager over the last year and a half.

So, yeah. Basically anything close to a repeat of what we saw against Macedonia last week won’t be accepted. Not even close.

Italy have already qualified for one of the playoff spots, sure, but they aren’t assured of one of the top seeds just yet. That’s where tonight’s game against Albania comes into play. A win in Albania will give the Azzurri just that.

Can they do it?

Sure, Italy, even with the injuries its dealing with, has the talent to keep one of the top seeds in the playoffs and qualify that way.

Should they do it?

Well, absolutely.

The only problem is that we don’t really know what to expect from this Italy squad right now. It’s a complete flip of the coin as to whether this team will actually show up and play or just lay a complete dud out there and slog their way to a win or draw. (Or maybe something much, much worse than that.)

So, we wait and see. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

And just in case you were wondering, here is what Ventura said about the current status of his team heading into its final game.

I expect progress from the Macedonia match. We have a lot of room for improvement. We could do more in some phases, but at the end we cannot be upset about. We are happy with the whole. We must win also so that we have a chance at a seeded ranking for the playoff.

Okay, that’s fine. Now let’s actually see that there’s actually some improvement being made here, Mr. Ventura.

MATCH INFO

Location: Loro Boriçi Stadium, Shkodër, Albania

Kick-off time: 8:45 p.m. local time in Spain; 7:45 p.m. in the United Kingdom; 2:45 p.m. on the East Coast; 11:45 a.m. on the West Coast

STARTING LINEUPS

Italy starting XI (4-2-4): Buffon; Darmian, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola; Parolo, Gagliardini; Candreva, Immobile, Eder, Insigne

Italy bench: Donnarumma, Perin, Zappacosta, Rugani, Inglese, Astori, Barella, Cristante, Bernardeschi, D’Ambrosio, El Shaarawy, Gabbiadini

Albania starting XI (4-2-3-1): Berisha; Hysaj, Veseli, Mavraj, Agolli; Kace, Basha; Roshi, Memushaj, Grezda; Sadiku

Albania bench: Hoxha, Kolici, Lila, Lenjani, Xhimshiti, Ahmedi, Balliu, Memolla, Ajeti, Latifi, Ndoj

WATCH IT

TV: ESPN Deportes+ USA (United States); Sportsnet 360 (Canada); Sky Sports Red Button (United Kingdom); RAI Uno (Italy)

Online/Mobile: WatchESPN, ESPN3 USA (United States); Sportsnet World Now (Canada); Sky Go UK, KY GO Extra (United Kingdom); Premium Play, SKY Go Italia (Italy)

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