Italy hit by injuries ahead of crunch match for Danes
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli's plans to blood some of his younger World Cup hopefuls have been thrown into disarray ahead of the Azzurri's penultimate qualifier away to Denmark.
However Denmark coach Morten Olsen, whose side is battling Bulgaria for the runner-up spot in Group B does not expect the four-time World Cup champions to be taking Friday's qualifier in Copenhanen lightly.
Italy's qualification for Brazil 2014 last month with two games to spare gave Prandelli the chance to further test emerging players like Paris Saint Germain midfielder Marco Verratti and Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne.
Both, however, have joined a 'doubtful' list which already includes AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, who suffered an adductor injury in training earlier this week and did not train on Wednesday.
Italy's chief doctor Enrico Castellacci said Balotelli's availability would depend on how he recovered in the days leading up to Friday's game.
"We will evaluate him day to day. If he recovers quickly, he will be ready to play," said Castellacci.
Scans also confirmed Verratti and Insigne had suffered hamstring injuries depriving Prandelli of a chance to name them in his starting line-up against a Denmark battling for its World Cup survival.
With a seven-point cushion over second-placed Bulgaria, Italy will top Group B no matter their results on Friday and Tuesday, when the Azzurri host Armenia in their final qualifier.
But in Copenhagen, where goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon will make his 137th appearance for his country and surpass the 136 caps of retired defender Fabio Cannavaro, the mood is unlikely to be celebratory.
Denmark are only one point behind Bulgaria and still in contention to snatch second place and a possible spot at the finals should they win their play-off which pits the eight best group runners-up against each other.
Olsen believes Italy won't be doing his team any favours.
"I don't think so, not at all," Olsen told fifa.com.
"They will be going out to show why they have qualified. And whoever they pick in the team, even if there are a couple of young players in there, will be going out to show that they deserve to be selected for the World Cup."