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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Italy can take advantage of illness in Denmark camp

Danes' preparation has been far from ideal

Sassuolo forward Domenico Berardi (right) is a key figure in Italy's squad
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European U21 Championship Group C
Sky Sports 1, 7.45pm Sunday

Italy collected the last of their five European Under-21 Championship trophies in 2004 but have taken a strong squad to Poland this summer and can begin with a victory over Denmark in Krakow.

The Azzurri were unbeaten in qualifying Group Two but had to work hard to finish top, one point ahead of a tough Serbia team.

They conceded just three goals, making them the joint-best defence alongside England and Denmark.

The Danes racked up 28 points from a possible 30 in Group Five but it was a weak section with fifth seeds Bulgaria finishing second.

Denmark face a big step up in class and their preparations for their opening match have been far from ideal with seven players reportedly struggling with an intestinal virus, although head coach Niels Frederiksen has said he expects all of them to be available.

Frederiksen has a couple of credible goal-threats in his armoury. Nordsjaelland centre-forward Marcus Ingvartsen starred in qualifying with eight goals and Cardiff striker Kenneth Zohore should be feeling confident after netting 12 goals in the Sky Bet Championship this season.

However, neither Ingvartsen nor Zohore are proven against top-level defences and they will be up against a strong Italy back line anchored by Juventus centre-back Daniele Rugani, a full international.

Italy possess quality in all areas of the pitch but will need somebody to step forward in attack.

It was very much a team effort for them in qualifying with Torino captain and midfielder Marco Benassi topping their scoring charts with three goals.

Sassuolo forward Domenico Berardi could be the man to step up after returning to full fitness at the end of an injury-hit campaign and Fiorentina attacking midfielder Federico Bernadeschi should also pose a threat having scored 11 goals in Serie A this term.

There are few obvious weaknesses in Italy's team and they look solid odd-on favourites to make a winning start. 

2pts 4-6 Ladbrokes

Team news
No fresh injuries are reported by the Azzurri.

Denmark have been hit by an intestinal virus which has affected seven players. However, only two of them - Jakob Blaabjerg and Rasmus Nissen - missed training yesterday.

Key stat
Denmark have kept one clean sheet in their last five internationals.

Denmark face a big step up in class and their preparations have been far from ideal
E.W. Terms
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