Boost for Italy as trio fit to face Montenegro

ITALY have been given some welcome news ahead of today’s World Cup qualifier against Montenegro with Gennaro Gattuso, Daniele De Rossi and Giuseppe Rossi all passed fit to play.

The trio have recovered from knocks sustained in Saturday’s goalless draw at Bulgaria and will be available for selection.

“We rested some of them in training just as a precaution,” said Italy coach Marcello Lippi. “But they have all recovered.”

However, the Azzurri go into the Group Eight showdown match without Bayern Munich striker Luca Toni, who will serve a one-match ban after picking up a booking at the weekend.

Fiorentina striker Alberto Gilardino will replace Toni in the starting line-up but Lippi hinted he is unlikely to tinker further with the team that took a point in Bulgaria.

“I will not make many changes,” said Lippi. “I was satisfied with the performance of my players in Saturday’s game considering the personality and character they showed on the pitch.”

But Lippi did suggest that Villarreal forward Giuseppe Rossi would have a part to play following his substitute appearance against Bulgaria.

“I already played Rossi on Saturday but either from the beginning or during the second half, it’s very likely that he will play a part,” said Lippi.

Rossi’s reputation is rapidly growing as his career has taken off since leaving Manchester United and establishing himself as a first team regular, first on loan at Parma and now at Villarreal.

The world champions will be looking to return to winning ways and consolidate their position at the top of the standings. Italy have a three-point cushion over the Republic of Ireland at the head of the group.

Giovanni Trapattoni’s men have a game in hand, however, and the Italians know they must maintain their positive run to maintain their advantage.

“We have to win in order to give value to our draw in Sofia,” said Lippi. “Otherwise, these two games would end up being negative results for us.”

Despite Montenegro having played just two competitive international games in their history following independence from Serbia in 2006, Lippi has warned his players not to underestimate their opponents.

In particular, Lippi has warned his defenders to keep a close eye on the Montenegro attack duo of Mirko Vucinic and Stevan Jovetic.

“They are both young and important players,” he said. “We cannot give them much space because they will take advantage.”

Montenegro have yet to claim their first win in qualifying but they remain unbeaten after draws against Bulgaria and Ireland. But the Montenegrins are aware of the challenge they face at the Via Del Mare stadium.

“We have a lot of respect for the world champions,” said Montenegro Federation president Dejan Savicevic, who wore the colours of AC Milan in his playing days. “But I am very familiar with Italian football, and we are also aware that Italy do have weaknesses. We will give everything we have because we have nothing to lose.”

The Italian Football Federation has stepped up security ahead of tonight’s match in a bid to avoid a repeat of the ugly scenes that marred the game in Sofia at the weekend.

A section of Azzurri fans threw bottles at Bulgarian supporters and there were clashes between rival supporters before the game.

“I hope that what happened on Saturday will not happen again,” said Lippi.

Meanwhile Bulgaria will be chasing their first win in 2010 World Cup qualifying when they visit Georgia.

Manchester City striker Valeri Bojinov is injured but Bulgaria have a potent strike force of Dimitar Berbatov and Martin Petrov and in-form midfielder Stilian Petrov.

“If we play against the other teams like we did against Italy, I don’t think we will have problems to win,” said midfielder Chavdar Yankov.

Brazilian-born defender Lucio Vagner limped off with injury in the first half against Italy and will definitely miss the Georgia game but Stanislav Angelov is available after suspension.

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