Italy vs Northern IrelandWorld Cup, KO: 19:45 Mar 25, 2021, Stadio Ennio Tardini
ITALY have been a resurgent force under Roberto Mancini and they will fancy their chances of starting their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign with a win when Northern Ireland come calling.
The Azzurri inexplicably failed to qualify for the last World Cup – a first in the nation's history since 1958 – but ex-Man City boss Mancini has since brought a real sense of optimism back to the international scene in Italy.
The Italians left nothing to chance in qualifying for Euro 2020 with an impeccable 100 percent record, a run of form that has coincided with Italy's current 22-match unbeaten streak.
Next up for Mancini's men is a World Cup 2022 qualifier against Northern Ireland at the Stadio Ennio Tardini on Thursday night.
Ian Baraclough's side suffered Euro 2020 play-off heartbreak as they scored a late leveller before they were undone in extra-time to lose 2-1 to Slovakia.
Northern Ireland will now turn their attention to qualifying for next year's World Cup and their mission will be fuelled by memories of their exploits at Euro 2016 – their first appearance at a major tournament in three decades.
Italy have avoided defeat in each of their last 25 home matches the hosts are heavily fancied here at 2/13 with TonyBet.
Italy's upturn in fortunes has coincided with their remarkable clean sheet record of late – Mancini's charges have chalked up five clean sheets across their last six matches and they have shut out their opponents in nine of their last 13 international outings.
However, there is little in value in backing the hosts to win to nil here at a general 8/15 so it's therefore a case of having to get creative to get a decent price on an Italy win.
I'll dip into the Bet Builder feature and combine Italy to win to nil alongside Italy half time/full time, an eye-catching even-money (1/1) angle with Bet 365.
As already alluded to, Italy have undergone a marked improvement since Mancini took the reins and when digging a bit deeper it can seen that the Azzurri's newfound defensive solidity has fuelled a remarkable run of just seven goals against across their last 22 international assignments.
Northern Ireland, meanwhile, are winless in each of their last eight matches and they have failed to keep a clean sheet on all of those occasions.
With that in mind, coupled with the fact that the above-mentioned Bet Builder has banked in each of the Italian's last five international triumphs, I'm more than happy to support the same formula on Thursday night.
I'll also head to the anytime goalscorer market and take the 5/6 on offer with UniBet for Italy striker Ciro Immobile to get on the scoresheet.
The Lazio talisman has notched up 15 goals in Serie A this season – the highest tally of any Italian player in the division – and he looks like a prime candidate to put out-of-sorts Northern Ireland to the sword on Thursday night.
This World Cup match between Italy and Northern Ireland will be played on Mar 25, 2021 and kick off at 19:45. Check below for our tipsters best Italy vs Northern Ireland prediction. You may also visit our dedicated betting previews section for the most up to date previews.