Italy and Uruguay are set to square off in an international friendly in Nice on Wednesday.
The domestic season has come to an end, but fans around the footballing stratosphere will still have their star players in action as they resume international duties with a bid to help their country qualify for next year’s FIFA World Cup.
However, before the official matches begin, teams will take centre stage in friendlies, which often sees nations from two different qualifying sects take on each other. These matches are usually to keep the players match fit and for head coaches to test out various combinations.
One such big game is on the cards for footballing fans as two heavyweights of the modern game Italy and Uruguay are set to take on each other, with nothing at stake. The two sides have been in a contrasting run of form, and it will be an intriguing encounter to witness.
The Azzurri will be looking to warm up for next week’s qualifier against Liechtenstein and manager Gian Piero Ventura is likely to make utmost use of this friendly to get his squad kicking for the big match that is only days away.
Team News and Tactics
Replacing Antonio Conte, who did wonders with a weakened Italy side at the European Championships was no mean task. Yet, Ventura has managed to bring the best out of the current crop of players by changing the shape of the side.
He has reverted to an orthodox back four, and has a number of quality centre-backs at his disposal. The likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Georgio Chiellini have been solid over the years for both club and country, and are named in the squad by Ventura.
However, the duo played the entire 90 minutes in the Champions League final against Real Madrid on Saturday, and Ventura could give them a breather and field Alessio Romagnoli and Daniele Rugani, who are seen as the centre-back pairing to take over from the prolific Juve duo.
Romagnoli is a ball playing defender compared to Rugani who is more a hard bodied no nonsense kind of a centre-back. The duo could be put to the test on Wednesday against Edinson Cavani and co.
In midfield, the absence of Marco Verratti through injury is sure to be felt as Ventura would have wanted the PSG maestro up for selection, particularly with the qualifier only a few days away.
Claudio Marchisio is available, but is unlikely to start as he featured in the Champions League final. Ventura, who does look for experience in the middle of the park, could start with Daniele de Rossi and Marco Parolo. The former could sit deep with the latter playing a box to box role.
Andrea Belotti is on the back of an amazing season with Torino, and is likely to lead the line for Italy for many years to come. He is primed to be joined by Ciro Immobile in the final third for the friendly against Uruguay.
Italy Probable XI: Donnarumma; De Sciglio, Romagnoli, Rugani, Darmian; Candreva, De Rossi, Parolo, Bernardeschi; Belotti, Immobile.
Luis Suarez’s absence due to injury will certainly cause a huge dent in Oscar Tabarez’s plans as the Uruguay coach has the seen the Barcelona forward form an exquisite understanding with Edinson Cavani up top.
However, in Suarez’s stead, Middlesbrough attacker Christian Stuani is likely to be given the nod, and is likely to operate in the hole behind Cavani. Stuani is tidy with his passes, and is expected to drop slightly deeper and switch the ball to the flanks.
On the wings Uruguay are not their strongest, but Italy’s Achilles heel are their full backs and Tabarez could look to exploit the two flanks to devastating effect. The Uruguay boss is expected to deploy Cristian Rodirguez and Mathias Corujo as wingers.
While Corujo may not be an out and out winger, he has often put a shift in the final third for his side San Lorenzo despite being a right-back by trade. He possesses a great amount of pace, has an eye for crosses, and could look to torment Darmian down Uruguay’s right side.
On the other wing, Rodirguez is expected to play as the creator in chief. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, the Uruguayan is still one of his team’s top performers, and on his day could be a real nightmare for opposition defences.
Defensively, Diego Godin is a major doubt through injury so Jose Gimenez will be bereft of the services of his Atletico Madrid centre-back partner. The stouthearted veteran Martin Caceres is expected to come in his stead, and serve as an able deputy to Godin.
Uruguay Probable XI: Muslera; Pereira, Gimenez, Caceres, Silva; Sanchez, Gonzalez; Corujo, Stuani, Rodriguez; Cavani.
- Italy go into this contest as hot favourites as they have won six and lost none of their last eight international matches.
- Uruguay’s recent loss at Republic of Ireland 3-1 has capped off four games now without a win.
- The South American team has also been shambles defensively, conceding a colossal 12 goals in their last four matches.
- The last encounter between the two featured plenty of late drama as Diego Godin scored an 81st-minute winner soon after Luis Suarez had a nibble on the shoulder of defender Giorgio Chiellini.
- It’s been five games going back to 1990 when Italy last beat Uruguay. In the nine matches played all time between the two, eight of them have seen under 2.5 goals.
Players to watch out for
A number of younger players are getting an opportunity to play on the international stage, and Belotti is one of them to have benefited from the transition in the Italian generation. The Torino front man has bagged 23 goals in the league this season, and will be trying his luck against Uruguay on Wednesday.
Italy 3-1 Uruguay
The Italians go into this one playing extremely close to their home turf, and are likely to have a massive fan following traveling with the team to France. They boast the stronger side on paper, and are expected to win convincingly.
Tabarez’s men may have a few tricks in the bag, but the absence of Luis Suarez will hamper their chances to be clinical in the final third, leaving Edinson Cavani without a quality option up front. They could grab the odd goal, but Italy are at least expected to find the back of the net twice.