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Fiorentina international break preview

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The only thing worse than watching the Viola play badly is not watching them play at all.

Honduras v Mexico: Final-2015 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying
El Titan ponders the sorcery of this floating sphere.
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Colombia

Carlos Sanchez will take his usual spot for the Cafeteros in their World Cup qualifying matches against Chile on Thursday, 10 November 2016, at 8:30 PM CST/3:30 PM EST and at Argentina on Tuesday, 15 November 2016, at 11:30 PM CST/6:30 PM EST. Against a pair of pacey, attack-minded sides, la Roca’s defensive nous and ability to physically dominate the center of the park will receive a good test as he’ll be forced to chase around a bunch of quicker players. However, Jose Pekerman knows that he’s the best bet to enforce the middle, and he’ll probably play both matches.

Colombia sit 4th (the final automatic qualifying spot) in the CONMEBOL table with 17 points, trailing Ecuador on goal difference and leading both of their opponents for this break by a single point. In light of this, expect some typically intense South American matches.

Croatia

Milan Badelj has gotten the call from Ante Cacic, where he’ll resume his usual place at the base of the Vatreni midfield. With a World Cup qualifier against Iceland on Saturday, 12 November 2016 at 5 PM CST/12 PM EST, Croatia could seize control of Group I with a win (they’re equal on points with Iceland but lead on goal difference). They then travel to Northern Ireland for a friendly on Tuesday, 15 November 2016, at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM EST.

Badelj should start the first one, but may make way for some of the youngsters in the friendly. Nikola Kalinic has been left out of the squad due to a minor thigh injury, although his hold on the backup role to Mario Mandzukic has been tenuous for the past several months.

Italy

Giampiero Ventura has selected Federico Bernardeschi and Davide Astori (as a late replacement for the injured Andrea Barzagli) for the World Cup qualifier at Liechtenstein on Saturday, 12 November 2016, at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM EST, as well as for the friendly against Germany on Tuesday, 15 November 2016, at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM EST. Berna will probably play a role in both, albeit from the bench, and Astori may get the start against Liechtenstein, although he could make way for one of youngsters Alessio Romagnoli, Daniele Rugani, or Armando Izzo.

This is a weird couple of fixtures, in that the friendly will probably be of much greater interest than the qualifier. Italy sit 2nd in Group G with 7 points and trail Spain on goal difference, so can’t afford any slip-ups. The match against die Mannschaft, though, will give Ventura a chance to match wits with Joachim Low, which should be a good indicator of how he’ll handle tougher matches, even with a rather experimental squad.

Mexico

Carlos Salcedo will resume his place in the squad for the Hex matches against the USA on Friday, 11 November 2016, at 1 AM CST/8 PM EST and at Panama on Tuesday, 15 November 2016, at 2:05 AM CST/9:05 PM EST. With el Tri fully in control of their group and assured of advancing with the top spot, Juan Carlos Osorio mostly has them playing for pride, especially against the USA at the Azteca, which is always fun/terrifying.

El Titan has a chance to start after his lights-out performances in the Olympics and with his excellent club form—Osorio recently mentioned how impressed he is with the young defender’s form at a big club—but beating out the likes of Hector Moreno, Rafa Marquez, and Diego Reyes isn’t a given. Still, he should play in at least one of the matches.

Romania

Ciprian Tatarusanu will take his usual place between the sticks for Cristoph Daum’s men in the World Cup qualifier against Poland on Friday, 11 November 2016, at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM EST; he may cede his place for the friendly at Russia on Tuesday, 15 November 2016, at 3 PM CST/10 AM EST. Sitting 2 points behind 2nd-placed Poland, they’ll badly need a win in Bucharest to keep pace. Tata has one of the toughest jobs on the pitch: stop Robert Lewandowski. The friendly against Russia, while likely to be hotly contested, will also be an interesting look at two nations in footballing transition.

Slovenia

Josip Ilicic will travel to Malta on Friday, 11 November 2016, for the World Cup qualifying match at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM EST. He’ll then head back to Ljubljana for a friendly against Poland on Tuesday, 14 November 2016, at 7:45 PM CST/2:45 PM EST. After his role as the protagonist for the Slovenians against England last time out—only a series of superhuman Joe Hart saves kept him from winning it—manager Srecko Katanec will likely expect him to wreak havoc against the Maltese, although he may take a backseat in the friendly.

Slovenia sit 3rd in Group F, 2 points behind leaders England and a single goal behind surprise package Lithuania. After a 15-place jump in the FIFA rankings to 52nd in the world, they’ll feel momentum is on their side.

Uruguay

Matias Vecino has gotten healthy just in time to be called up for Uruguay’s matches against against Ecuador (Thursday, 10 November 2016, at 11 PM CST/6 PM EST) and at Chile (Tuesday, 15 November 2016, at 11:30 PM CST/6:30 PM EST). Oscar Tabarez will probably want his energy from the get-go against Chile, but may opt for a bit more guile against Ecuador. Knowing Tabarez, though, he’ll probably pick Arevalo Rios and Gonzalez, with their combined age of 66, for both matches.

Uruguay sit 2nd in the table, just a single point behind Brazil and 3 points ahead of Ecuador and Colombia. To keep that cushion intact, they’ll badly want to win, which should lead to some stereotypically hard-fought matches. Sebastian Cristoforo and Maxi Olivera remain completely off the national team radar.

Italy U18

Goalkeeper Giacomo Satalino, leftback Luca Ranieri, and striker Gabriele Gori have all been selected by manager Paolo Nicolato for the friendly against Austria on Friday, 11 November 2016. All three are with the Primavera right now, although Satalino got some time with the big boys last year and has been linked to several Premier League clubs, including Arsenal. Gori, meanwhile has 4 goals in 3 U18 appearances, so is clearly one to watch as well.

Italy U20

Federico Chiesa has gotten the nod for the Azzurini’s minor tournament matches against Germany on Thursday, 10 November 2016, and at Switzerland on Tuesday, 15 November 2016. Manager Alberigo Evani has preferred to use him as an impact sub on the left wing in relief of Spezia’s Alessandro Piu, but a string of senior appearances for Fiorentina could push young Federico into the starting lineup.

Poland U21

Bartlomiej Dragowski will stick as the Polish number one for the U21 friendly match against Germany on Tuesday, 15 November 2016. He’s bound to be frustrated not to be playing at the club level after spending 2 years as a full-time starter back in Poland, and it sounds like Paulo Sousa may not be a fan. However, he’s still one of the best teenage goalkeeping prospects in the world, so hopefully a strong performance will boost his confidence and keep him happy.

Snubs

The most surprising, perhaps, is that Khouma Babacar still can’t get a call from Senegal, although he’s certainly more impressive than some of the options Aliou Cisse has selected. There have been rumors that he may get his inaugural call for the African Cup of Nations in January, but I’ll believe that when I see it and not a moment before.

Gonzalo Rodriguez and Borja Valero are, as usual, ignored by their respective national teams. Business as usual. Serbia, under Slavoljub Muslin, looks to have moved on from Nenad Tomovic; this is the second international date in a row he’s been skipped over.