Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi is set to win his 100th cap when Italy take on Croatia in their European Championship qualifier at the San Siro on Sunday.
The 31-year-old, who made his debut for the Azzurri a decade ago in a World Cup qualifier with Norway, admits the game in Milan will hold a special place in his heart no matter what the result.
He said: “When I started playing football it was inconceivable for me to even think about reaching such a milestone. I will always have a place in my heart for this special game, especially when I can’t play anymore.”
The Roma midfielder and the rest of his side go into Sunday’s qualifier with a perfect record of three wins from three in Group H, a record that is matched by the visitors with both sides already in a commanding position to make the finals in France in the summer of 2016.
Italy coach Antonio Conte has called up 14 new faces to his revamped squad, although the majority of these players will not feature until the midweek friendly match with Albania in Genoa on Tuesday.
Sunday’s showdown will potentially go a long way to deciding who wins Group H. The home side are 1.25 to win the group with the visitors 3.65 to finish in pole position.
One Croat who will be a familiar face in Milan is Mateo Kovacic. The Inter Milan midfielder has been in fine form for his club so far this season and is confident Niko Kovac’s side can cause an upset.
He said: “They will certainly be tough but we knew that already before. They are a good team with an excellent coach who has all the tactics. But we also have a great team and are in a good mood”.