Croatia will play their important Euro 2016 qualifying match against Italy behind closed doors after being given a ban by UEFA for the recent crowd trouble.
This is likely to place the 2006 world champions as the favourites to get three points. Croatia would have had a great chance of maintaining their advantage in the group had it not been for the lack of home support. They have been surprise leaders in the group H after poor form shown by Italy during the first few qualifying matches. Even after the arrival of former Juventus boss Antonio Conte, the team struggled to get results.
Croatia have taken advantage of this and have shot into the top of the table. Even a second place finish will be enough to qualify for the finals, but finishing top of the group will have its own advantage. Ahead of the match, Croatia manager Niko Kovac has claimed that there are no favourites between his team and the Italians. The table leaders have prepared well for this match after getting a convincing 4-0 win over Gibraltar in a recent friendly. However, there are doubts surrounding the fitness of some key players like Luka Modric. Even a draw will be seen as a good result by the Croatians.
“There is no favourite and it is a very particular game because it will be played without a crowd.It’s a shame, we but we have to focus only on the match at hand. We watched back the first game at San Siro and they are likely to change something because of absences.This is a new game, it will be difficult and let’s not be fooled that anything has been resolved in our qualification. We start from scratch. At this stage of the season it’s normal for there to be players missing through injury, as it has been a long and stressful year,” said Kovac.