The Italy national team will look for Torino striker Andrea Belotti to lead them to glory on Saturday as they play Spain in a critical World Cup qualifier at the Estadio Bernabeu.
Both La Roja and the Azzurri are even on points at the top of Group G in the European qualification process for Russia 2018, and with just four games remaining, the pressure is on the two sides to secure an automatic berth to next summer’s tournament.
Enter the budding 23-year-old, who has taken Serie A by storm and emerged as one of the world’s hottest potential transfers.
Hype of the Torino star aside, Azzurri tactician Gian Piero Ventura will likely be delighted by the young starlet’s recent form.
Belotti, who recorded his first league goal of the young season in this past weekend’s 3-0 victory over Sassuolo, will look to continue his momentum as he suits up for his country.
That said, the Italian has been hugely inconsistent in international competition and will be under serious scrutiny if, as expected, he’s featured in the starting XI against La Furia Roja.
Indeed, there is a notable drop-off in form when the Granata striker plays a top side versus one of the minnows of world football.
For instance, Belotti has competed against the likes of France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Uruguay since September 2016, but managed just a single assist in those contests.
Conversely, the Azzurri attacker, who has only appeared in nine international matches, has accrued four goals and setup an additional three in a trio of World Cup qualifiers against lowly Lichtenstein and Macedonia.
The level of competition in an inhospitable Madrid environment will be much greater for the Italians as they look to gain at least some distance on the Spanish.
On the positive side, Belotti has only shown improvement in his young career; the number of times he’s scored each season in Serie A has nearly doubled each year since he first entered the league with Palermo in 2014.
It is therefore not unexpected for the in-form striker, who has been linked this summer with football giants Milan and Chelsea, to show the same level of growth with the Azzurri.
Saturday’s game is critical for Italy as they look to secure qualification to Russia 2018 – but it may well serve as a turning point for the young attacker as well.