Italy will look to take a step closer to securing qualification at the UEFA Euro 2020 when they welcome Greece to Stadio Olimpico in a Group J tie on Saturday.
The curtains will fall on Matchday 7 of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers on Saturday, with some intriguing fixtures on show. Group J leaders Italy will be in action at home, as they play hosts to Greece at Stadio Olimpico, searching for a win that will leave them on the verge of booking their place at next year’s finals.
After slowly acclimatising to the ways of Roberto Mancini, Italy have started to find a semblance of stability lately. In the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, the Azzurri have been on a roll, winning each of their first six fixtures to establish a six-point lead atop the table.
Greece, on the other hand, have been disastrous in the qualifying campaign for the UEFA Euro 2020, winning just one of their six games thus far. The poor run of results, including five successive games without a victory has left the Ethniki on five points, seven adrift of second-placed Finland and with very little chance of securing an automatic qualifying berth.
The reverse fixture, played back in June, saw Italy cruise to a 3-0 win, courtesy goals by Nicolo Barella, Lorenzo Insigne and Leonardo Bonucci. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Long-term absentee Giorgio Chiellini remains sidelined, and his absence means Leonardo Bonucci will be partnered by Francesco Acerbi at the heart of the Italian defence. In addition to Chiellini, Roberto Mancini will also be bereft of the services of Emerson Palmieri, who was not up for selection due to a thigh injury.
The Italy head coach faces further problems, with Alessandro Florenzi (illness) and the in-form Stefano Sensi (thigh) withdrawing from the squad due to their respective issues, while Gianluigi Donnarumma is a major doubt due to a stomach problem.
Donnarumma’s troubles could force Mancini to fall back on his backup goalkeeping options, with Salvatore Sirigu likely to get the nod ahead of the uncapped duo of Alex Meret and Pierluigi Gollini. Meanwhile, Florenzi’s absence means Armando Izzo could start as the right-back, while in place of the injured Emerson, Leonardo Spinazzola is expected to line up on the opposite flank.
Up ahead in midfield, Nicolo Barella, Jorginho and Marco Verratti are automatic picks. Jorginho will pull the strings as the deep lying playmaker. Verratti will provide the creative thrust from an advanced position, with Barella being the workhorse in the middle of the park.
Ciro Immobile is expected to lead the line for Italy, with Lorenzo Insigne a certain starter on the left side of the attack. Federico Bernardeschi and Federico Chiesa will contest for the final spot in the side, with Chiesa likely to get the nod due to the creative impetus he provides from the right flank.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Sirigu; Izzo, Bonucci, Acerbi, Spinazzola; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne
Change has been the name of the game for Greece under the tutelage of John van’t Schip, who is looking to promote more young players with every squad that he names. At the same time, the head coach has also taken a critical decision to overlook some big names.
Those who have suffered from this outlook are star defenders Vasilis Torosidis, Kostas Manolas and Sokratis, as well as Andreas Samaris and experienced striker Kostas Mitroglou. Meanwhile, van’t Schip is expected to line his side up in a 4-4-2 formation.
Odisseas Vlachodimos is likely to take his place in goal for Greece in the absence of the injured Vasilios Barkas. In front of him, the defensive line ought to see Kostas Stafylidis and Michalis Bakakis line up as the two full-backs, while Dimitris Siovas and Pantelis Hatzidiakos, who will be making his international debut, ought to form the central defensive partnership.
Andreas Bouchalakis will look to hold the fort in the middle of the park for the visitors, with Kostas Galanopoulos giving him company in the middle of the park. The two wide midfielders are likely to be Petros Mantalos and Marios Vrousai, with Tasos Donis and Efthymis Koulouris forming the strike partnership for Greece.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Vlachodimos; Bakakis, Siovas, Hatzidiakos, Stafylidis; Mantalos, Bouchalakis, Galanopoulos, Vrousai; Donis, Koulouris
- This will be the 18th meeting between Italy and Greece. The visitors have managed just the solitary win over the Azzurri (D5 L11).
- Greece have managed to win just one of their last eight games across all competitions (D2 L5) and none of their last six.
- Italy have won each of their six matches so far in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, scoring 18 goals while letting in just 3.
- In fact, the Azzurri are unbeaten in their last 10 games across all competitions (W8 D2), with Portugal the last team to get the better of them, well over a year ago.
- Italy have scored two or more goals three times in their last 23 games, while Greece have conceded two or more goals in only one of their last 20 away matches.
Player to Watch
2019 has been a year that has seen Jorginho turn his fortunes around considerably. But, it is the start of the 2019-20 season wherein the Italian international has started to boss the midfield on a consistent basis.
With Italy on the cusp of returning to a major tournament, the contribution of Jorginho will be key. The 27-year-old has been on an upward trajectory for the national side as well and the game against a stuttering Greece side in transition gives him a great opportunity to stamp his authority for Italy.
Italy 3-0 Greece
The game pits two sides that are on the opposite end of the spectrum, as far as stability is concerned. Italy are well adjusted to Roberto Mancini’s methods, but Greece are in the middle of a transitional period at the present moment.
A strong midfield and attack means the hosts should thoroughly dominate the proceedings, with the inexperienced Greece side struggling to pose a threat. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts a comfortable evening for Italy, who should coast to a 3-0 win on Saturday.