The curtain-raiser of the UEFA Euro 2020 will go down in Rome this Friday night as Turkey face off against Italy in a Group A encounter.

The wait is finally over. After a year-long postponement due to the pandemic, the much-anticipated UEFA Euro 2020 will finally kick off this Friday night with a Group A encounter that pits a resilient Turkey outfit against an in-form Italy at Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

Turkey enjoyed a fine qualifying campaign for the Euros, finishing behind France in Group H, losing just one of the ten games they played while letting in a mere three goals. That was followed by the disappointment of relegation in the UEFA Nations League, though, with the Crescent-Stars unable to get going in the tournament last year and playing out a series of draws, along with twin defeats to Hungary.

However, Senol Gunes’ side has managed to pick up some momentum heading into the Euros, winning four of their six games since the turn of the year (D2), which includes a 4-2 triumph over the Netherlands in the World Cup Qualifiers in March.

Italy, meanwhile, after having faced the ignominy of missing out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup, have been on a roll under Roberto Mancini. The Azzurri cruised through their Euro Qualifiers, topping Group J with utmost comfort as they won each of their ten games, scoring 37 times and letting in just four goals.

Italy enjoyed a fine run in the UEFA Nations League as well, topping Group A1 to book a place in the finals of the tournament and go into the European Championships as one of the favourites, having been on a brilliant 27-game unbeaten run, last losing a match in September 2018.

UEFA Euro 2020 Group A: Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales | THT Preview

Ahead of the curtain-raiser of the summer extravaganza that is the UEFA Euro 2020 at Stadio Olimpico this week, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Turkey

Heading into the big game on Friday, Turkey have no major absentees whatsoever. Indeed, manager Senol Gunes can call on his entire roster for the game against Italy. The Crescent-Stars are expected to set up in a 4-1-4-1 formation which will see goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir shielded by two banks of four and five members, respectively, while captain Burak Yilmaz acts as the lone striker.

Turkey have been known for their defensive solidity and discipline under Gunes, which is expected to be on show once again this week. Juventus defender Merih Demiral and Leicester City’s Caglar Soyuncu, who has recently been linked with Barcelona, will form the crux of the backline for Turkey, flanked by Zeki Celik and Umut Meras, who will be encouraged to push forward occasionally.

Further defensive responsibility will fall on Okay Yokuslu, who will slot in as the holding midfielder, hoping to disrupt Italy’s midfield runners. The 27-year-old will likely have support from Ozan Tufan, who will be operating in a more of a box-to-box role for Turkey, while the other attacking midfield slot will be taken up by Yusuf Yazici, whose primary task will be to offer support to Yilmaz at the top.

Out wide, Kenan Karaman should get the nod on the right flank, while dangerman Hakan Calhanoglu will slot in on the left-wing. However, there is the possibility that he and Yazici exchange positions during the game. Nevertheless, the onus of chance creation will fall onto the shoulders of the AC Milan playmaker.

Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Cakir; Celik, Demiral, Soyuncu, Meras; Yokuslu; Karaman, Tufan, Yazici, Calhanoglu; Yilmaz

Italy

Unlike Turkey, Italy have already been hit with a couple of injury setbacks heading into the opening game of the tournament. Stefano Sensi had to be withdrawn earlier in the week after he injured himself during training, with Matteo Pessina coming in for him. Following the official submission of the squad, though, Lorenzo Pellegrini has now picked up an injury and has been ruled out.

Italy have written to UEFA requesting permission for a replacement, with Gaetano Castrovilli in line to be a part of the roster. Midfield mainstay Marco Verratti is also unavailable due to a knee issue but could be fit in time for the Azzurri‘s next group encounter. Despite the setbacks, Roberto Mancini has a strong squad at his disposal, and any team he puts on Friday will be a tough nut to crack for Turkey.

In goal, Gianluigi Donnarumma is a certainty as he looks to set aside the speculations surrounding his club future and focus on the task at hands. The veteran Juventus duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini seem set to start as the centre-backs, although Alessandro Bastoni is more than a viable option for the manager. Out wide, Alessandro Florenzi and Leonardo Spinazzola pick themselves.

Jorginho, fresh after winning the UEFA Champions League with Chelsea, is the undisputed starter at the base of the three-man midfield unit for Italy. Nicolo Barella, who was integral to Inter Milan’s Serie A triumph, is also a certain starter as he looks to provide the creative thrust from the centre. And with Verratti unavailable, Manuel Locatelli should get the nod as the third midfielder for the Azzurri.

As for the attack, two of the three slots are pretty much locked in, with Ciro Immobile leading the line ahead of Andrea Belotti and newcomer Giacomo Raspadori, with support coming from Lorenzo Insigne on the left-wing. On the right, Domenico Berardi might just edge out Federico Chiesa for the starting berth on Friday.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Spinazzola; Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli; Berardi, Immobile, Insigne

Form Guide

Turkey: WDWDW

Italy: WWWWW

Key Stats

  • This will be the twelfth meeting between Turkey and Italy. Of the previous 11 matches, the former have failed to pick up a single win, with the Azzurri winning eight while the remaining three ended in draws.
  • Italy, though, have failed to win in their last two games against Turkey, with both the contests ending in 1-1 draws.
  • In 32 matches in charge of the Italian national team, Roberto Mancini has lost just twice (W23 D7), posting a highly impressive win percentage of 71.88.

Player in Focus

Hakan Calhanoglu (Turkey)

While Turkey is a team laden with quality players across the field, one player that stands out tall is Hakan Calhanoglu. The 27-year-old playmaker is coming into the Euros on the back of an impressive season with AC Milan. And, with his contract expiring later this month, he will be out to make an impression on his potential suitors with match-winning displays for his national team.

Calhanoglu, with his vision and quality on the ball, will be the main outlet of chances for the Crescent-Stars and should he deliver, in Burak Yilmaz, they have a wily, old striker who will make the most of those opportunities.

Ciro Immobile (Italy)

The Turkish defence, throughout the Euro qualifiers, stood out for their structure and resilience. And, more of the same can be expected in the finals, which is why Ciro Immobile will be critical for Italy on Friday night. The Lazio marksman enjoyed another fine season at club level, banging in 25 goals in 41 matches in all competitions.

Immobile has also been in good nick with the national team as well, scoring three goals and setting up one more in his four games since the turn of the year. Against the stubborn Turkish defence, Italy will need to take their chances, and the responsibility of doing that will be on the shoulders of their 31-year-old veteran goalscorer.

Prediction

Turkey 0-1 Italy

Turkey have been tipped as one of the dark horses in the UEFA Euro 2020, and rightly so, given that they have a solid base at the back and quality at the top to hurt defences. However, in Italy, they will be up against a team that has made winning a habit under Roberto Mancini. Nonetheless, it promises to be a closely-contested outing at Stadio Olimpico, but Italy’s overall quality should see them just about edge out their opponents on Friday night.

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