Antonio Conte has called on Italy supporters to unite behind the team as Fiorentina fans prepare to boycott the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifier against Malta.
Azzurri coach Conte has looked particularly downbeat in the past few days as he prepares to enter Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi, a place where the former Juventus boss is unlikely to find much support.
Fans of Fiorentina -- one of Juve's fiercest Serie A rivals -- are to boycott the game as a show of their lack of support in the current Italy coach. Barely 4,000 tickets had been sold up to Wednesday and little over double can be expected to have been sold come Thursday night.
"There's little to say really," Conte said at a news conference. "We know full well that the national team is always expected to win. There are all these things said about the situation in Italian football, yet each time we lose it's a failure and all that talk gets forgotten about."
Conte can expect those fans present at the Franchi to be on his back if they sense any struggles in beating Malta -- a nation currently ranked 159th in the world -- but he hopes that will not be the case, and that the stadium will be united in helping Italy get three more points to move closer to qualifying for Euro 2016.
"This is not an appeal just for me, even if I would like to be and should be supported by everybody," Conte said. "When you are on a [club's] bench, everybody defends their own colours, but the national team is everybody's.
"I hope that the Franchi gives the national team a big hand. With six points [from Malta and Bulgaria games], we can start to prepare well for next June."
Italy currently sit second in Group H on 12 points -- two behind group leaders Croatia -- while Malta are bottom with just one point and one goal scored in six games.
The Italian Football Association (FIGC) has distributed 9,000 free tickets to boost the attendance.