Italy will look to end their 2020 European Championship qualifying campaign with a hundred percent winning record when they host Armenia on Monday.
Italy are currently one of only two teams to have retained a hundred percent winning record in the 2020 European Championship qualifying campaign so far. They have already qualified for the main stage of the tournament. And on Monday, they will have the opportunity of ending their campaign with ten wins in ten as they lock horns with Armenia in Palermo.
The Azzurri have been in excellent form throughout the reign of Roberto Mancini. They are notably coming on the back of a convincing 3-0 win over Bosnia & Herzegovina. Hence, the hosts will be full of confidence going into this clash. But, they will also need to be aware, knowing they are running the risk of breaking their winning streak.
Armenia, on the other hand, will have an opportunity to finish third in the table if they manage to collect all three points against Italy on Monday. They are currently fourth with ten points on the board, trailing third-placed Greece by just one point.
They will be hoping that the Greeks lose their game against Finland while Abraham Khashmanyan will only be aiming for three points in this encounter. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we take a look at both the sides ahead of their crucial match-up on Monday.
Tactics & Team News
Despite the record that is on the line, it won’t be surprising to see Mancini ringing in the changes to the side that won 3-0 against Bosnia.
Salvatore Sirigu could replace Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal ahead of Pierluigi Gollini. In defence, veteran Leonardo Bonucci might make way for Alessio Romagnoli, who could be dealt with the task of leading the Italian defence. The AC Milan star is likely to be partnered by Francesco Acerbi at the heart of the four-man backline.
Elsewhere, Alessandro Florenzi could be given a breather. He could make way for Napoli’s Giovani Di Lorenzo, who is tipped to earn his second cap for Italy. He will feature at right-back, with Cristiano Biraghi starting on the opposite flank, replacing Emerson.
In midfield, Jorginho could be the only player to retain his role in the side. Gaetano Castrovilli made his international debut when he appeared as a substitute against Bosnia in the last game. He is tipped to earn his first start for his country and could be partnered by Nicolo Zaniolo in the middle of the park.
And finally, in the attack, Mancini could recall Ciro Immobile after he was benched in the last game. The ex-Borussia Dortmund forward is expected to lead the Italian attack, and will be supported by the wide attacking duo of Federico Chiesa and Stephan El Shaarawy.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Sirigu; Di Lorenzo, Romagnoli, Acerbi, Biraghi; Castrovilli, Jorginho, Zaniolo; Chiesa, Immobile, El Shaarawy
With the third-place up for grabs, Khashmanyan is expected to deploy his strongest possible eleven as he looks to churn out a surprise victory against the Italians. He will, however, be missing out on the services of star player Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The AS Roma playmaker is currently nursing an injury.
Khashmanyan is likely to retain his 5-4-1 formation, which will offer him a numerical advantage in midfield. It will also help his team to keep better hold of the ball during attacking phases. Aleksandr Karapetyan is expected to act as the lone forward upfront.
The Sochi forward must make full use of the limited chances he will get against a strong Italian defence that has conceded only three goals from nine matches. He will be supported by the wide-attacking duo of Tigran Barghsegyan and Erik Vardanyan.
In defence, Armenia are expected to operate in deep blocks and wear Italy out with their rigid shape and tight marking. It will be interesting to see how the likes of Andre Calisir and Hayk Ishakhanyan fare in this encounter.
Predicted Lineup (5-4-1): Hayrapetyan; Hambardzumyan, Calisir, Ishakhanyan, Voskanyan, Hovhannisyan; Barghsegyan, Hovsepyan, Grigoryan, Vardanyan; Karapetyan
- The last time these two met, which was also the reverse fixture of this game, the Italians won away from home, 1-3.
- Italy and Armenia have clashed on three occasions in the past. Both teams found the back of the net in all the encounters.
- Armenia has conceded twice or more in all their fixtures against the Azzurri.
- Italy is yet to record a win against Armenia at home. The last time these two met with Armenia playing the guests, the match ended 2-2.
- Italy have managed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last three UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying fixtures.
Player to Watch
Immobile will have a point to prove after being left out of the starting lineup against Bosnia & Herzegovina, though it was probably an experimental move from Mancini. Nevertheless, the top scorer in Serie A with 14 goals would certainly want to improve his scoring tally in the qualifiers, having only netted one goal so far.
Somehow, Immobile has an underwhelming record on the international stage, which has always left him trailing down the pecking order in terms of team selection. But, a solid performance against Armenia in the final qualifying game should give him the ideal confidence needed.
Not to mention, it’s imperative that he replicates his scoring form with Italy if he is to get selected over Andrea Belotti for next year’s European Championship. Hence, all eyes will be on the Torino goal-machine on Monday.
Italy 2-0 Armenia
Armenia have dearly missed the presence of Mkhitaryan in the final third, which was evident in their performance against Greece. And on Monday, they could find it even more difficult to breach a solid Italian defence. Hence, we expect the visitors to slump to a 2-0 defeat in this one.