Scotland ready for physical clash with Italy

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GLASGOW, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Scotland have warned world champions Italy they could be in for a bruising encounter in Saturday's Euro 2008 qualifier in Glasgow.

A win for Scotland in their final Group B game would send them through to the Euro 2008 finals for their first major championship appearance in a decade.

France top the group on 25 points, one ahead of Scotland with Italy a further point adrift but with a game in hand on both.

''It's come to a cup final kind of scenario with this last game. We know what is at stake and the prize on offer for the right result,'' Scotland striker Kenny Miller said.

''It is a cup final against the world champions to qualify us for our first major championship for 10 years, so it's a huge game.

''You have to put a stamp on the game and get the upper hand and if that means you put a few tackles in and upset a few people then that's what you do,'' he added.

Scotland have been the surprise package of the group with eight victories in their 11 qualifying matches so far, although they lost 2-0 in Italy in March.

APPREHENSIVE ITALIANS ''I think the Italians are apprehensive -- they know they were favourites to win the group so there is an element of pressure on them.,'' Scotland assistant manager Roy Aitken said.

''They know they are in for a game this weekend. But the Italians are the world champions and the respect is mutual.

''Our players are entitled to that respect with the performances they have put in with five out five victories at home which has been fantastic.'' Italy's preparations have been overshadowed by the shooting of a Lazio fan by a policeman last Sunday which prompted riots in Rome and at Atalanta's match with AC Milan.

The Italian soccer federation has suspended lower league action this weekend but the Hampden Park game will go ahead with Italy asking UEFA if the team can wear black armbands.

Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero, 33 and AC Milan forward Filippo Inzaghi, 34, have again been left out of Roberto Donadoni's squad after he hinted last month they were getting too old for international soccer.

Flexible Juventus forward Raffaele Palladino, 23, has been given a surprise first call up.

AC Milan striker Alberto Gilardino is back after being ignored for recent squads while Juve forward Vincenzo Iaquinta is fit after missing the 2-0 win over Georgia last month.

Captain Fabio Cannavaro returns from suspension and fellow defender Gianluca Zambrotta has been called up after recovering from an ankle problem but World Cup winner Marco Materazzi is still out.

Probable teams: Scotland: Craig Gordon; Alan Hutton, Gary Naysmith, David Weir, Stephen McManus; Barry Ferguson, Darren Fletcher, Paul Hartley, Scott Brown; James McFadden, Kenny Miller.

Italy: Gianluigi Buffon; Christian Panucci, Andrea Barzagli, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta; Massimo Ambrosini, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo; Antonio Di Natale, Luca Toni, Vincenzo Iaquinta.

Referee: Manuel Mejuto Gonzalez (Spain).


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