Seasoned Italians ready to toast French
Fognini can lead his team into last four on homeland clay
World Group quarter-finals
We are approaching the end of the Davis Cup as we know it - tennis's most charismatic competition is about to be totally rehashed into an end-of-season one-week extravaganza - but there are still three rounds remaining this year for fans to enjoy what has been a beautiful format down the years.
Even though there are a couple of one-sided quarter-final clashes in the World Group this weekend - ties which should see USA and Croatia make serene progress into the semi-finals - the cup is still pretty open with Spain rated 3-1 favourites to lift the trophy.
Sergi Bruguera's team are expected to field world number one Rafael Nadal after an injury break. They could well need Nadal with Alexander Zverev due to lead Germany into battle on red clay in Valencia's bull ring.
Nadal was not fit enough to do himself justice on the North American hard courts but he has been hard at work on the clay since he knew he would have to skip Indian Wells and Miami.
It has obviously not been ideal preparation for the Pearl of Manacor but the likelihood, especially with Roger Federer missing the clay campaign, Novak Djokovic a million miles below his best and Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga still sidelined, is that the Majorcan will still be the one to beat on the slow red courts.
The best bet this weekend, however, could be in the closest clash on paper, Italy versus holders France.
Doubles pair Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut could do the business for Yannick Noah's travellers in Genoa, but it's difficult to see France denying Italy in the singles.
Fabio Fognini has posted some of his best performances on clay for his country in the cup and he is fancied to win both of his singles rubbers.
France star Lucas Pouille could pick up one singles win, but even though Adrian Mannarino and Jeremy Chardy have been in reasonable nick of late, whoever plays second singles for the away team would do well to deny Andreas Seppi, who is also producing some fine tennis this year.
Italy to beat France
1pt 4-5 BetBright
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