'Catastrophe' if Italy miss World Cup, says manager Gian Piero Ventura

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura says it would be a "catastrophe'' if the four-time winners failed to qualify for next summer's World Cup.

The Azzurri are currently three points behind Group G leaders Spain with just two games remaining and the Spaniards have a superior goal difference of 17 over the Italians.

Spain remain favourites to win the group and barring a major shock in their final two fixtures, Italy should be one of the eight runners-up that will make up the play-offs.

Not qualifying for Russia either automatically or through the extra games does not bear thinking about, according to Ventura, who insists he is not yet sizing up possible play-off opponents.

"If we did not qualify it would be a catastrophe,'' Ventura told a press conference.

"But I'm not thinking about the playoff games. First there are matches against Macedonia and Albania, then we'll see who we meet.''

Ventura's squad has been weakened by the absence of four named players for Friday's match against Macedonia in Turin and Monday's trip to Albania.

Marco Verratti picked up an injury towards the end of Paris St Germain's 6-2 win over Bordeaux while Andrea Belotti was carried off with a serious knee injury five minutes from time in Torino's 2-2 draw with Verona.

Lorenzo Pellegrini will also miss out after picking up an injury in Roma's 2-0 win at the San Siro.

Daniele De Rossi had been named in Ventura's latest squad despite suffering with a knee injury but has returned to Roma for further treatment.

Roberto Gagliardini was already named in the squad as cover for De Rossi.

Atalanta's Bryan Cristante is named in the squad for the first time.

"Most recently our starters in midfield were Daniele De Rossi and Marco Verratti, and the first reserve was Lorenzo Pellegrini,'' Ventura said.

"All three will be missing, but whoever plays will hopefully prove themselves to be an important resource for the national team.

"De Rossi is out and we're without Pellegrini and Verratti too.

"As for Andrea Belotti, we did Torino a favour by not bringing him to Coverciano.

"We allowed him to be evaluated by his club as they requested.

"It's not important that he didn't come to the training camp.''