Italy Needs A Win Against Shevchenko's Ukraine

ROME, Italy -- World champion Italy desperately needs a win when it faces Ukraine in European Championship qualifying Saturday.

Italy Football Team

Italy struggled in its opening two Euro 2008 qualifiers — a 1-1 draw with Lithuania and 3-1 loss to France — and has only one point in Group B. Scotland and France lead the group with six points each, followed by Ukraine and Georgia with three points apiece.

"I don't like saying we need to win at all costs, but we do have to get good results," said coach Roberto Donadoni, who is facing criticism three months after taking charge.

The Italian league hadn't begun when Italy opened qualifying last month.

"The difference now from a month ago is we're in top form and we have to win," midfielder Andrea Pirlo said. "We're not playing for Donadoni, we're playing for all of Italy."

Strikers Luca Toni and Alessandro Del Piero are back on Italy's team for the first time since the World Cup.

"I can't contemplate a European Championship without Italy," said Toni, who scored twice in a 3-0 win over Ukraine in the World Cup quarterfinals. "Ukraine brings back great memories. I hope to do well this time too."

This is the third meeting between Italy and Ukraine this year. They also played to a 0-0 draw in a pre-World Cup friendly.

"We know Italy is the favorite but Ukraine is a team that can create surprises," said Ukraine striker Shevchenko, who has a fever and may not play.

Shevchenko joined Chelsea at the end of last season after seven years with AC Milan. He's been in touch with several of his old Milan teammates this week and will face some of them Saturday.

"Italy gave me a lot and I'm not talking about Milan victories, but of friends and all that I learned," Shevchenko said.

Shevchenko has only scored two goals with Chelsea, the last on Aug. 23.

"There are highs and lows in life. I was tired too after the World Cup," he said.

Alessandro Nesta of Milan is back from injury but it appears Marco Materazzi may start alongside captain Fabio Cannavaro in Italy's defense.

Materazzi returns from a two-game suspension that followed Zinedine Zidane's head butt on him in the World Cup final.

"We can't behave like we're world champions. We have to play like it," Materazzi said.

Left-back Fabio Grosso is out with a right leg injury. Massimo Oddo is expected to move into the lineup at right-back with Gianluca Zambrotta shifted over to the left.

The expected midfield trio is Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Daniele De Rossi.

Midfielder Simone Perrotta is suspended for one game. He could return when Italy plays its next qualifier in Georgia on Wednesday, although he is also recuperating from a left ankle injury.

Mauro Camoranesi and Del Piero could support center-forward Toni in attack in a 4-3-2-1 formation.

As for Ukraine, Shakhtar Donetsk's Anatoly Tymoshchyuk provides a strong presence in midfield.

"It's a well organized team with some good individual players, as they already showed at the World Cup," Gattuso said.

Italy is playing in Rome's Stadio Olimpico for the first time since February 2001, when the Azzurri were beaten 2-1 by Argentina.

Source: AP