Italy can move a step closer to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil with victory over Bulgaria in Palermo on Friday.
Cesare Prandelli’s are four points clear of Friday’s second-placed opponents in Group B, with the pair unbeaten so far in their campaign.
Wins against Bulgaria on Friday and the Czech Republic on Tuesday would put them on the brink of a place in Brazil where they can make amends for their poor showing in South Africa three years ago where they failed to win a match and were eliminated at the group stage.
Prandelli, who is the subject of reports in Italy that suggest he will leave his post after the World Cup next year, will be without the key trio of Mario Balotelli, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo and Riccardo Montolivo due to suspension.
However, the 56-year-old is more concerned that Bulgaria could be in better shape than his side, with the domestic league already seven games in, compared to Serie A where only two game weeks have been completed.
“I am worried above all, about the physical conditions,” he said on Monday.
“Bulgaria is in good shape, they can give us some problems. We have to contrast Bulgaria with lots of quality in the middle of the field and with lots of running along the touches.
“Bulgaria is in good physical condition, it will be a difficult match and historically we have always had problems in September. The message is thinking about winning these two matches before talking about the World Cup.”
Italy stalwart Gianluigi Buffon could equal the all-time appearance record of 136 caps for his country against Bulgaria at the Stadio Renzo Barbera.