Ciro Immobile says he holds no fear of the World Cup playoffs as he focuses on getting the goals that will take Italy to Russia next summer.
The Lazio striker is in a rich vein of form with nine goals in his last six Serie A games, and since Torino forward Andrea Belotti, who has become his first-choice strike partner for Italy of late, has been ruled out injured, the onus is now on Immobile to get the goals Italy need to qualify.
First, he hopes to oblige with the goals that see Italy beat Macedonia in Turin on Friday, with just a point needed from that game or their trip to Albania three days later to ensure at least second place in the group.
Then, Immobile cannot wait to see who they will face over two legs for a ticket to Russia -- and then get involved in the November playoffs.
"I don't have any fear of the playoffs," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "In fact, I can't wait to play them. First of all, though, we want to win our next two games. We know it's not going to be easy against Macedonia because they caused us one or two problems at their place, and it's always difficult for anybody to play in Albania.
"So we're going to have to be ready and focused."
Those are attributes the former Torino, Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla forward says he has developed and refined as he enjoys some of the best form of his career.
"I've reached the maximum level of serenity," he said. "I'm feeling good physically, I'm happy within myself and I'm also happy with the others. This is why I'm doing such good things."
With Belotti ruled out for around four weeks, due to what his club Torino have diagnosed as a "first/second degree tear of the collateral ligaments and medial capsule in his right knee," which will require "conservative therapy" and no operation, Immobile is likely to start alone up front for Italy this Friday with coach Gian Piero Ventura abandoning his preferred 4-2-4 formation for a 4-2-3-1.
Antonio Candreva and Lorenzo Insigne should both play in support of Immobile.
Italy are set to finish second in their group behind Spain, who have a three-point advantage going into their final two qualifying matches against Albania and Israel. As a result, the Squadra Azzurra would face a two-legged playoff against another of the group runners-up next month -- with Italy being seeded -- for one of the final four tickets to Russia next summer.