Italy will be hoping to clinch their place as UEFA Euro 2020 Group A winners when they take on Wales on Sunday at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

After securing their place in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Euro 2020, Italy will be aiming for the top spot in Group A when they play hosts to Wales at Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.

The Azzurri have emerged as one of the best performers in Euro 2020, registering two dominant performances against Turkey and Switzerland. It puts them in the driver’s seat, with just a draw in their final group game enough to seal the top spot for Roberto Mancini’s men.

Wales, on the other hand, are once again punching above their weight in a major international tournament. They sensationally reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016, and are on course to sealing direct qualification to the Round of 16 this time around.

From their opening two matches, Wales have secured four points, meaning they have a chance of clinching the top spot to Italy if they register a win in Rome this weekend. Their main priority, however, will be to avoid a defeat, even though third-placed Switzerland are unlikely to catch up thanks to their -3 goal difference.

It essentially means that Vladimir Petkovic’s men will need to score at least five goals if Wales lose to Italy by a one-goal margin. The margin will decrease if Italy score more goal, but the Dragons will be keen on avoiding such a scenario and become the first team to prevent Azzurri‘s relentless march in the competition.

Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their crucial encounter at Stadio Olimpico this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Italy

With two wins in the bag and a place in the knockout rounds secured, Roberto Mancini will most certainly use this opportunity to rest some of his key players ahead of their Round of 16 clash next week.

Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile are the two prime candidates in attack, having played wonderfully in the first two matches. Their likely presence on the bench should pave the way for Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti, with the latter spearheading the Italian attack after scoring a hat-trick in the friendly against Cremonese.

Mancini might also be tempted to give a run-out to either Federico Berdardeshi or the youngster Giacomo Raspadori, depending on the situation of the game, as the latter is a technique-oriented centre forward compared to the dynamic wide player that is Bernardeschi.

In midfield, Marco Verratti has returned to full fitness, featuring in the midweek friendly against Cremonese Primavera. He should be recalled to the team, most likely at the expense of Nicolo Barella, who is also a ball-carrying creative midfielder.

It appears unlikely that either of the remaining two midfielders in Manuel Locatelli and Jorginho will be rested given the form that they are in. They are also elemental to Italy’s control in midfield, in addition to their transition play, though we do expect the lesser-used options like Gaetano Castrovilli or Bryan Cristante to get more game-time this time around.

As for the defence, Mancini will most certainly keep Giorgio Chiellini on the sidelines, giving him time to recover from the injury he picked up against Switzerland. It will open up a spot in central defence alongside Leonardo Bonucci.

Francesco Acerbi was given the nod in the last game, but we are expecting Alessandro Bastoni to get some much-needed game-time. There should not be any changes elsewhere with Giovanni Di Lorenzi once again likely to get the nod ahead of the injured Alessandro Florenzi at right-back while Leonardo Spinazzola is almost a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Bastoni, Spinazzola; Locatelli, Jorginho, Verratti; Berardi, Belotti, Chiesa

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Wales

Wales head coach Robert Page enjoyed a higher degree of success by slightly tweaking the system against Turkey. It won’t be surprising to see him replicate the formation against an Italy, who will provide a much bigger threat in defence.

It means the two full-backs in Connor Roberts and Ben Davies will have to mostly camp themselves in the defensive third, nullifying the attacking threat from the likes of Domenico Berardi and Federico Chiesa. They also need to be careful of the overlapping runs from the opposition full-backs, with Leonardo Spinazzola being a particular threat.

Page might want to make one change in midfield, with Ethan Ampadu coming in for Joe Morell. The youngster is very composed in possession and can drop in as an auxiliary centre-back if necessary, providing assistance to Joe Rodon and Chris Mepham at the heart of the Welsh backline.

Ampadu’s presence should also allow Joe Allen to become more expressive in possession. He may require additional assistance from Aaron Ramsey, with the duo likely to play a key role in spraying balls around the park and to find runners like Gareth Bale and Daniel James with their balls over the top.

With not much-attacking support, it will be essential for both Bale and James to be at the top of their game as they look to offer creative support for Kieffer Moore upfront.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ward; Roberts, Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Ampadu, Allen; Bale, Ramsey, James; Moore

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Form Guide

Italy: WWWWW

Wales: WDDLW

Key Stats

  • Italy and Wales have met on nine previous occasions, with the Azzurri dominating the tie with seven wins compared to Wales’ two.
  • In 34 matches in charge of the Italian national team, Roberto Mancini has lost just twice (W25 D7), posting a highly impressive win percentage of 73.5.
  • Six of the seven goals Wales have conceded at Euros (all editions) have been in the first half whereas just one of Italy’s six goals this term has been scored in the first half.

Player in Focus

Marco Verratti (Italy)

Attracting Barcelona interest again. (Photo courtesy - Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Marco Verratti is ready to return to action for Italy. (Photo courtesy – Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Marco Verratti will be the player in focus for Italy as the PSG midfielder hopes to return to the pitch after an injury layoff. While one would have expected him to become a guaranteed starter for Italy at UEFA Euro 2020, he has faced stiff competition from Manuel Locatelli and Nicolo Barella, meaning he must perform well in order to get into the starting eleven in the knockout rounds.

At the moment, Roberto Mancini has no reason to tinker with the midfield trifecta of Jorginho, Locatelli and Barella. However, Verratti has the technical prowess very few midfielders in Europe possess and PSG star is hoping to put that on show as returns to the pitch against Wales in Rome this weekend.

Gareth Bale (Wales)

Gareth Bale was the star man for Wales in their victory over Turkey. The Real Madrid forward silenced his critics with two assists and could have even scored a goal, but his penalty was surprising wide of the park. He is, nevertheless, a danger for the Italian defence that has remained quite resilient so far in the tournament.

From a tactical perspective, Bale should be tasked with the responsibility of attacking the channels. The absence of Chiellini could play in his favour, while the Welshman may also look to exploit the gaps left behind by the marauding Spinazzola on the flanks. A lot, however, will depend on how the likes of Ramsey and Allen service him with their passes.

Will Bale make a mark against Italy? (Photo by Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Will Bale make a mark against Italy? (Photo by Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

Prediction

Italy 1-0 Wales

Wales are arguably the toughest opponents for Italy in the group stages. Robert Page’s men know how to remain defensively resilient, which could make things difficult for a weakened Italian side. Not to mention, the presence of star attackers like Daniel James, Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey could cause a myriad of problems for the ageing central defensive unit.

Although we are still expecting Roberto Mancini & co. to secure all three points, this promises to be a low-scoring fixture and the result could be decided on the finest of margins.

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