Italy midfielder Daniele de Rossi believes keeping errors to a minimum will be the key to overcoming Sweden and booking their spot at the World Cup in Russia.
The Azzurri head for the Friends Arena in Stockholm on Friday evening for the first leg of their play-off, before hosting the Swedes in the San Siro on Monday.
Few teams in world football are better than Italy at grinding out a tough result and Roma midfielder de Rossi believes that stoical and stubborn approach can lead them to the promised land as he bids to play in his fourth World Cup Finals.
Failure would see Italy miss the tournament for the first time since 1958 and de Rossi is not keen on that notion.
Italy edged Sweden 1-0 when they met at last summer’s European Championship Finals in France and de Rossi is at least thankful that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, since retired form international football and currently injured, won’t be lining up this time.
“I never want to play against him again, not even if he was 40 with a broken leg,” he said. “We are expecting two games in which we cannot afford to make mistakes.
The stakes are so high that the idea of shedding blood and sweat is appropriate. We must give everything right to the finish.”
The Italians are facing something of a striker crisis ahead of the first leg showdown, with Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti not fully fit, and Simone Zaza aggravating an old knee injury in training this week.
Italy are 2.38 to win the first leg. With home advantage, Sweden are 3.30 while the draw is 3.10. A scoreless draw in Stockholm is priced at 6.00.