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WhoScored: Di Maria leads in one key stat

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Prandelli stands by his selection

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has defended his team selection ahead of Friday's World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria after earmarking seven Juventus players to start the match and handing the number ten shirt to Sebastian Giovinco.

The Italian media, as is often the case, are using the 'ItalJuve' moniker to describe Prandelli's team, not only for the inclusion of so many Turin-based players but because he has also decided to continue with the 3-5-2 formation with which Juve won the Scudetto and worked so well at Euro 2012.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference he said: "[Juventus coach Antonio] Conte has done a really good job but I called up Juventus players to the squad even before he began coaching there and took some stick for that too. I stand by my decisions.

"Giovinco claimed the jersey. The players usually work these things out among themselves and he's a second striker. There's no real difference between having the number nine, ten or eleven on your shirt. His jersey is not important, it is important that he is at the centre of the play."

Giovinco will start in attack alongside Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo. "They are both in great condition. Even more so than the others, but everyone is fit."

Going on to discuss opponents Bulgaria and the rest of Italy's qualifying group, the former Fiorentina coach played down his side's position as heavy favourites, paying tribute to their latest opponents.

He told the gathered journalists: "I'm concerned because everyone expects us to win this easily whereas we play better when we are a little worried. The key word is qualification, then we have to be consistent in our game and generous. We learned a lot at the Euros but we have to be good at picking ourselves up again.

"We'll receive a 'warm' welcome as we are one of the teams to beat in Europe. It won't be easy, but we have prepared well. Bulgaria are re-building a team and they are very aggressive. They spread the ball around well and field a 4-3-3 formation. Who worries me most? Popov, their centre-forward."

Italy XI v Bulgaria: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Maggio, De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio, Giaccherini; Giovinco, Osvaldo

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