Antonio Conte backed Italy to clinch six points and take a huge step towards Euro 2016.
Italy coach Antonio Conte said his team can all but secure Euro 2016 qualification with wins against Malta and Bulgaria.
Conte's men sit second to Croatia in Group H of qualifying, but they are two points clear of Norway and four ahead of Bulgaria.
Ahead of hosting Malta on Thursday and Bulgaria three days later, Conte said qualification - a top-two spot will guarantee their place in France - was close for his team.
"This is an important week for us. We face Malta and Bulgaria," he said.
"We can be really close to qualification if we win these matches. But qualification has not been achieved yet."
Despite being early in the season, Conte backed his players to perform for their country.
Among the players left out were Mario Balotelli and Claudio Marchisio, while Sebastian Giovinco withdrew due to an adductor injury.
"It is important to be focused on the players that we have got. Otherwise we start thinking about impossible solutions and wasting time. We have to do our best with these players," Conte said.
"However, I will be really careful with the players who play. This time I called up the group of players based on last season's performances. I trusted them and they deserve the chance to prove they can continue to do the job for us.
"If some of these players don't play during the season, then of course they risk not being called up. I have to be honest and respectful with the players who are playing. I want to be clear about that."comments