LAST_UPDATESun, 24 Jun 2018 9pm

Simone Zaza Doubtful For Italy Qualifier With Sweden

Valencia forward Simone Zaza is a doubt for Italy's World Cup qualifier with Sweden after he was forced to cut short Thursday's training session due to a knee injury.

Zaza will be on board the flight taking Gian Piero Ventura's 27-man squad to Stockholm on Thursday afternoon, but the Italian FA (FIGC) said in a statement that he has suffered a "relapse of a persisting problem in his left knee."

Italy play the first leg of their playoff on Friday and the return match in Italy on Monday as the two nations battle it out for a place at next summer's World Cup in Russia.

Zaza would otherwise be expected to partner Ciro Immobile in the Italy attack in Solna on Friday night, with Inter Milan's Eder regarded as the first alternative should the Valencia man miss out.

Andrea Belotti, who has only just recovered from a knee injury, and Lorenzo Insigne are also candidates, as well as Southampton's Manolo Gabbiadini.

Belotti was Immobile's partner for much of the World Cup qualifying campaign, although he missed the last two qualifiers due to injury. He has played twice in Serie A for Torino since recovering, although there are still question marks over his match fitness.

Former West Ham United forward Zaza has scored nine goals in 11 La Liga outings for Valencia this season, earning his first call to the Italy squad since 2016.

That form had made him favourite to partner Immobile, who is top scorer in Serie A with 14 goals in 11 games, against Sweden.