By Ian S Palmer
Bulgaria is running out of time if they hope to finish in the top three of Group H Euro 2016 qualifying as there are just three games to go and the team is five points behind third place and a playoff spot. They’ll be gunning for all three points this Sunday, September 6 when they travel to Palermo to take on Italy. Bulgaria dropped three huge points on Thursday when they were beaten at home by Norway. The Italians just squeaked past Malta 1-0 the same day to move into a first-place tie with Croatia on points. A loss here will just about dash any hopes Bulgaria has of making next year’s European Championships in France.
Italy vs Bulgaria Euro 2016 Qualifier Betting Preview
- Pinnacle lists Italy as the current favorites at -217 with Bulgaria +768 and a draw at +334
HEAD TO HEAD:
- These two teams met in Sofia, Bulgaria earlier in the qualifying campaign and battled to a 2-2 draw. Bulgaria had the lead in that game, which was the first in charge for new manager Ivaylo Petev. The nations have met a total of 18 times in the past with Italy winning nine games, losing two and drawing the other seven. The most memorable meeting between them came in the semifinals of the 1994 World Cup in America when Italy pulled off a 2-1 victory. Roberto Baggio scored both goals that day at Giants Stadium in New Jersey with Bulgarian great Hristo Stoichkov scoring his team’s marker with a penalty kick. They also faced off against each other in 2014 World Cup qualifying. They battled to a 2-2 draw in Sofia with Italy winning their home game 1-0 in Palermo.
Croatia leads Group H with 15 points and Italy also have 15 with the same unbeaten record of four wins and three draws. However, Croatia sits in top spot with a better goal difference. Italy has scored 10 times and allowed five against for a +5 rating while Croatia has found the back of the net 16 times and have conceded just three for a +13 rating. For Bulgaria to reach third place they’re going to have to overtake Norway, who occupy the position with 13 points. Bulgaria is in fourth with two wins, two draws and three defeats with seven goals scored and eight allowed.
Italy heads into the match on a 37-game unbeaten streak at home in World Cup and Euro qualifying encounters. The streak consists of 31 victories and six draws with their last loss coming back in September of 1999 when Denmark handed them a 3-2 defeat. If the Italians win or draw on Sunday their unbeaten string at home will have reached 16 years. Italy has triumphed in seven of their eight competitive contests in Palermo with the other game being a 2-1 defeat to Croatia in a Euro qualifier in 1994. Bulgaria has won three and lost three in their last six qualifying fixtures.
Bulgaria’s chances will basically be shot of they fail to win this game. Even with a win and a Norway loss they’ll still be two points behind the Norwegians with just a pair of Group H qualifying matches to go.
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