Poland and Italy will have it all to play for in the Group 3 tie of UEFA Nations League A when they lock horns at Stadion Slaski on Sunday night.
The UEFA Nations League group phase will move into its latter half from Sunday, starting with Matchday 4. The only match on Sunday in League A will feature two teams in a sudden death situation in which the loser will be relegated from the top division, as Poland and Italy meet at Stadion Slaski.
Both Poland and Italy have just a solitary point after two games apiece – that coming from the stalemate in the reverse fixture last month. Apart from that tie, each side has been beaten by Portugal by the odd goal, which leaves them both in a delicate situation, as another loss will leave them rock bottom.
Should both sides end up with the same result as last month in Italy, Portugal will have sealed top spot, and the chance to vie for the UEFA Nations League title. Confidence is unlikely to be sky high in either camp on Sunday, with both failing to win their last match – Poland were beaten by Portugal while Italy were held by Ukraine.
The two sides last met in the aforementioned clash in Bologna last month, as Jorginho rescued a point for Italy after Piotr Zielinski had put Poland ahead in the first half. Ahead of the next meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
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There were several positives to be seen from Poland’s defeat at the hands of Portugal, but the end result would have left them disappointed and devastated. In particular, their frailties at the back have been quite woefully exposed, and Jerzy Brzeczek should duly make some changes in defence and midfield.
Wojciech Szczesny would fancy his chances of returning to the side after Lukasz Fabianski shipped in three goals against Portugal. Kamil Glik should retain his place despite scoring an own goal, with Jan Bednarek giving him company at the heart of the defence for the crunch UEFA Nations League tie.
Arkadiusz Reca and Tomasz Kedziora though, should be the full-backs, replacing Artur Jedrzejczyk and Bartosz Bereszynski. In the middle of the park, Poland will have to make do without Mateusz Klich, who is suspended after picking up a yellow card last time out.
The Leeds United man should be replaced by Karol Linetty, while Jakub Blaszczykowski will be hoping to return to the starting lineup after scoring the consolation goal for Poland off the bench against Portugal. The VfL Wolfsburg midfielder will be looking to drift inwards to create overloads in the middle of the park.
The rest of the side though, should remain unchanged, with Piotr Zielinski, Krzysztof Piatek and Robert Lewandowski being the key men upfront. Brzeczek though, will be sweating over the form of Poland captain Lewandowski, whose poor form continued in the midweek loss.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Szczesny; Kedziora, Bednarek, Glik, Reca; Blaszczykowski, Krychowiak, Linetty, Zielinski; Lewandowski, Piatek
The fortunes just aren’t improving for Roberto Mancini and Italy, whose winless run extended to five when they were held to the 1-1 draw by Ukraine. Defence continues to be an uncharacteristic weakness for the Azzurri, with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci failing to inspire the men at the back.
On Sunday, however, the experienced duo should be persisted with at the heart of the Italian defence by Mancini, with the game against Poland being perhaps the final chance for at least one of them to make a mark. There should be one change in the backline though, with Domenico Criscito returning to the side in place of Cristiano Biraghi.
In midfield, Nicolo Barella did not make a huge impact on his debut for Italy, and could be replaced for the crunch tie, with Lorenzo Pellegrini possibly taking his place. But, Marco Verratti and Jorginho should keep their places, with the two schemers being key to Italy’s fortunes.
Meanwhile, the key decision for Mancini will be the inclusion of Ciro Immobile right from the get-go. The Lazio front-man hasn’t started two of last three games, and with the aim of keeping things simple, the Italy boss might just give him the go ahead.
Making way for Immobile, should be Federico Chiesa, who was unimpressive against Ukraine. Mancini though, will be hoping Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne can continue their strong form, with the former being deployed in the familiar position on the right flank instead of the central role that featured in last time out.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Criscito; Verratti, Jorginho, Pellegrini; Bernardeschi, Immobile, Insigne
- Poland and Italy have previously met 15 times, with the home side recording just three wins thus far (D7 L5).
- The two sides have already locked horns in the UEFA Nations League – on Matchday 1 – with the tie ending in a 1-1 draw.
- Italy have managed to win just one of their last 10 games, and none of their last five, with Roberto Mancini’s spell starting in horrendous fashion.
- Italy’s struggles can largely be chalked down to their problems at the back, with the Azzurri failing to keep a clean sheet in any of their last eight games.
- If a definitive result is produced on Sunday, the loser of the tie will be relegated from UEFA Nations League A, while a draw will see Portugal confirm top spot in Group 3.
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It has been an odd run for Italy, who first failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which can be chalked down to a great extent to their susceptible nature at the back. This has been hugely surprising, as the Azzurri have historically been one of the most defensively astute sides.
More surprising though, is the fact that the usually sound partnership of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini has been extremely shaky of late. But, with no room for error left for Italy, Chiellini will have to lead by example and shore up the backline. If he indeed solidifies the defence, Italy will be well set up to triumph on Sunday and seal Poland’s fate.
Poland 2-1 Italy
Group 3 of UEFA Nations League A has been a one-horse race thus far, with Poland and Italy having to battle it out to retain their place in the top division. The tie on Sunday is thus, a do-or-die encounter, with the loser’s fate being sealed. And, with both sides bearing a vulnerable look at the back, this could make for an enticing viewing.
With that in mind, it should come down to which of the two is more clinical in the final third, which is where Poland might come up trumps. Goals have come at a premium for Italy of late – four in five games – and they are yet to find the back of the net in the UEFA Nations League from open play.
All signs thus, point towards a Polish win, with in-form Krzysztof Piatek making a telling impact. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Jerzy Brzeczek’s men, with Italy confirmed to drop down to UEFA Nations League B.