Italy and Austria will square off against each other on Saturday night in London with a place in the quarter-final of the UEFA Euro 2020 on the line.
With the group stages of the UEFA Euro 2020 out of the way, the Round of 16 phase kicks off this weekend. While Wales take on Ireland in the first knockout fixture on Saturday, the focus will shift to London later in the night as one of the tournament favourites, Italy, lock horns with Austria at the Wembley Stadium.
Italy have been the team to beat so far in the Euros. The Azzurri started off with a comfortable 3-0 win over Turkey in Group A and followed it up with a scintillating 3-0 triumph against Switzerland to seal safe passage through to the knockouts. A much-changed side then clinched a 1-0 victory over Wales in the final group game to become the first side in European Championship history to win all three group stage matches without conceding.
Austria, meanwhile, kicked things off in Group C with a comeback 3-1 win over tournament debutants North Macedonia but were handed a 2-0 defeat by the Netherlands in the subsequent fixture. A narrow 1-0 triumph over Ukraine in the final group encounter was enough for them to finish second and set up a date with Roberto Mancini’s men on Saturday night.
This will be the first time Italy and Austria will clash in almost 13 years, following the 2-2 draw in a friendly encounter in August 2008. Ahead of this crunch encounter between these two teams, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Roberto Mancini is likely to be without his captain Giorgio Chiellini for the first knockout game after he missed the Wales encounter with a hamstring issue. Alessandro Florenzi is also an injury doubt for Italy as they gear up to take on Austria at Wembley this weekend. As usual, the Azzurri will line up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo, who has emerged as a target for Real Madrid, should continue at right-back while Leonardo Spinazzola, who has stood out with his deadly forward forays, is a certainty on the left. Leonardo Bonucci is another player who is a guaranteed starter for Italy, with the Juventus ace likely to don the captain’s armband in Chiellini’s absence. He should be paired up with Alessandro Bastoni at the heart of the defence.
Jorginho, who has proven himself to a vital cog in the engine room for the Italians, will line up at the base of the three-man midfield unit. Nicolo Barella ought to return to the side after not featuring against Wales. The Inter Milan ace will provide the forward thrust from the centre. Marco Verratti is likely to edge Manuel Locatelli for the third slot in the middle, despite the latter’s impressive displays in the first two matches.
Moving into the final third, the frontline pretty much picks itself for Italy, with Ciro Immobile the obvious choice at centre-forward ahead of Andrea Belotti. At the same time, Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Berardi are also automatic selections in the wide areas, considering the form they have been in. Federico Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi will be options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Bastoni, Spinazzola; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Berardi, Immobile, Insigne
Austria, too, have a few injury concerns heading into the Round of 16 clash with Christoph Baumgartner picking up a head injury in the last game, while Julian Baumgartlinger is also nursing an issue. However, the duo is expected to be fit and available on Saturday night, along with Martin Hinteregger and Florian Grillitsch, although Valentino Lazaro could miss out with a thigh issue.
Manager Franco Foda opted to switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation in the win against Ukraine and is expected to stick with a similar setup against Italy, with Daniel Bachmann manning the goal, where he could be in for a busy night. Aleksandar Dragovic and the fit-again Hinteregger ought to form the centre-back partnership for Das Team with Stefan Lainer and captain David Alaba starting as the full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively.
Xaver Schlager is a certainty to feature in the midfield double pivot for Austria, with the 23-year-old looking to hound the Italians and force turnovers in midfield. He will pair up alongside Grillitsch and look to stifle the threat posed by their counterparts, Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti. Meanwhile, the creative burden will be carried by Marcel Sabitzer, who ought to line up as the No. 10 for Foda’s side.
Konrad Laimer started on the right-wing against Ukraine and could do so yet again, as he would enable Austria to add more bodies in the middle when Italy are in possession. Having recovered from his head injury, Baumgartner should slot in on the left and look to pick out any openings in the Italy defence. Marko Arnautovic will spearhead the attack, with Sasa Kalajdzic an option from the bench for Foda to call upon.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Bachmann; Lainer, Dragovic, Hinteregger, Alaba; Schlager, Grillitsch; Laimer, Sabitzer, Baumgartner; Arnautovic
- Italy are currently on a 30-game unbeaten run, with their last loss coming in the UEFA Nations League against Portugal in 2018. The Azzurri have kept a clean sheet in each of their last 11 games.
- Austria, on the other hand, have won just two of their last six fixtures, losing three of those (D1).
- This will be the 35th meeting between Italy and Austria. The former have picked up 16 wins in the past 35 contests while the latter have 11 victories. However, Italy haven’t lost in any of their previous 13 encounters against the Austrians.
Player in Focus
Marco Verratti (Italy)
After having missed the first two games of the UEFA Euro 2020 due to injury, Marco Verratti returned to the side against Wales in the final group encounter and put in an absolutely dominating display in the middle of the park. The Paris Saint-Germain superstar controlled the tempo of the game with his passing and also set up the only goal of the match with a fine free-kick delivery.
Likely to keep Manuel Locatelli, who has been a standout performer for Italy in the Euros, out of the lineup for Saturday’s contest, Verratti, with his vision and range of distribution, will once again be key against an Austrian outfit who will look to throw bodies behind the ball and frustrate their opposition.
Marcel Sabitzer (Austria)
Like Italy’s creative onus will lie on the shoulders of Verratti, Marcel Sabitzer will have to carry the burden of chance-creation for Austria. The RB Leipzig midfielder hasn’t been able to hit the ground running in the Euros so far. But, his quality, once he gets going, is undoubted.
On Saturday, Sabitzer will have to escape the attention of Jorginho and look to feed the attackers like Marko Arnautovic & co. with chances, while he himself is more than capable of carrying a goal threat, making it vital for Italy to keep him quiet.
Italy 2-0 Austria
As iterated earlier, Italy are the team to beat in the tournament thus far. Dominating teams, controlling games and scoring goals while not conceding any, Roberto Mancini’s side are living up to the favourites tag. Austria, meanwhile, haven’t been at their best but have shown spirit to pick up wins over North Macedonia and Ukraine. Nonetheless, given the rampant form the Azzurri have been in, it should be yet another straightforward win on the cards on Saturday, taking them through to the quarter-final.