Italy will look to continue their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as they travel to Yerevan to face Armenia on Thursday.
Italy have been one of the best teams in the European Championship 2020 qualifying campaign. They are one of only five teams to have retained a hundred percent winning record after playing four games. So essentially, the European giants are leading the Group J table with 12 points.
On Wednesday, they will travel to Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium in Yerevan to lock horns against Armenia. A win for the Azurri could further solidify their place at the top of the table and keep Finland at bay. They are coming on the back of a narrow win over Bosnia & Herzegovina, where they had to come back from behind to secure all three points.
As for Armenia, they will be keen on causing an upset against Italy, which should boost their chances of qualification. They are currently third in the group table, three points behind second-placed Finland, who have nine points on the board. The Fins failed to win against Italy. Armenia, to that end, could have a significant advantage should they salvage at least a point this midweek.
Armenia won 3-2 against Greece in their last game despite finishing with only 25% possession. And this indicates how dangerous they are on the counter – something Italy should definitely be aware of.
Here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over both sides ahead of their fascinating matchup on Thursday afternoon.
Team News & Tactics
Armenia coach Armen Gyulbudaghyants is unlikely to make too many changes to the side that secured a hard-fought win over Greece. Aleksandr Karapetyan will continue to lead the attack, having scored the opener against the Greeks.
Karapetyan will be supported by the wide-attacking duo of Tigran Barseghyan and Gevorg Ghazaryan. Barseghyan has been in great form for Kaysar in the Kazakhstan Premier League this season, scoring 11 goals in 24 matches. As for captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan, he will occupy his preferred number ten role.
Karlen Mkrtchyan is a guaranteed pick in central midfield. The 30-year-old is one of the old guards of the current Armenian side, having won 52 caps for the national team. He also plays for FC Pyunik based in Yerevan, meaning he will have the backing of the home support.
Speaking of home support, defender Varazdat Haroyan was born in Yerevan. He will likely partner Hayk Ishkanyan at the heart of Armenia’s four-man backline. The 27-year-old will be desperate to perform in his hometown. Andre Calisir is also an option at centre-back.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Hayrapetyan; Hambardzumyan, Ishkanyan, Haroyan, Hovhannisyan; Mkrtchyan, Grigorian; Barseghyan, Mkhitaryan, Ghazaryan; Karapetyan.
Italy coach Roberto Mancini will miss out on the services of Giorgio Chiellini due to injury. Alessio Romagnoli is likely to deputise for him at the heart of the four-man backline. The AC Milan skipper will be partnered by former Milan skipper and current Juventus star Leonardo Bonucci.
Gianluca Mancini was utilised as a makeshift right-back in the last game. But, he will likely make way for Danilo D’Ambrosio in this game. Emerson, meanwhile, is likely to retain his place on the opposite flank. Gianluigi Donnarumma, meanwhile, will return in goal, having missed the last two due to injury.
Jorginho is a guaranteed starter at the base of Mancini’s 4-3-3 setup. The Chelsea star will be partnered by Marco Verratti, who scored the winner in the victory against Bosnia. Verratti will operate in a slightly advanced midfield role alongside Nicolo Barella, who has become a regular fixture in the Italy first-team.
Andrea Belotti could be given the nod ahead of Federico Bernardeschi following an excellent start to the campaign. The Torino centre-forward notably netted six goals in the UEFA Europa League qualifying campaign. He will be deployed at right-wing with Lorenzo Insigne retaining his position on the opposite flank.
And finally, the Italian attack will be spearheaded by Ciro Immobile. The ex-Borussia Dortmund star has netted two goals in two Serie A matches this campaign and will replace Fabio Quagliorella as the lone number nine.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; D’Ambrosio, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Emerson; Verratti, Jorginho, Barella; Belotti, Immobile, Insigne.
- Italy have never lost to Armenia having claimed one win and a draw from two previous matches. The Italians ran out 3-1 winners on their last visit to Yerevan during the qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
- Armenia have lost 9 of their last 13 matches (European Championship Qualification).
- Italy have won their last five matches (all competitions).
- Italy have kept clean sheets in 6 of their last seven matches (all competitions).
- Bosnia’s goal against Italy was the first goal the Azurri had conceded since October of last year.
Player to Watch
Fresh from a loan move to AS Roma, Armenian skipper Mkhitaryan will soon be plying his trade in the Serie A. And he will be desperate to perform against Italy and could possibly even come up against some of his teammates, including Alessandro Florenzi and Lorenzo Pellegrini.
But most importantly, the ex-Manchester United star will be Armenia’s creator-in-chief. He is the only hope the hosts have in their bid to create scoring opportunities against this solid Italian defence that has conceded only one goal in their four matches in the qualifying campaign so far.
Besides, a good performance against Italy would leave a solid impression as he seeks to revive his career at AS Roma this season. Therefore, Mkhitaryan should be one to watch out for as Armenia host the Azurri this midweek.
Armenia 0-3 Italy
Armenia are not exactly known for their attacking prowess despite scoring three goals against Greece in the last match. And especially against Italy, who boast one of the strongest defensive records in the Euro 2020 qualification campaign, it’s unlikely that Gyulbudaghyants’ men will cause any real scare to the visitors this week. We expect a comfortable 3-0 win for Italy in this one.