Italy will be aiming to take a step towards qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2022 when they take on Switzerland in a Group C Qualifier on Friday.
The last couple of matchdays in the European leg of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers will be played out in the current international break. And reigning champions of Europe, Italy, will be hoping to inch closer to booking a berth in the showpiece event in Qatar next year when they welcome Switzerland in a Group C tie at Stadio Olimpico.
Italy and Switzerland are joint top in the group, with both teams having collected 14 points each from six games. With just the table-toppers guaranteed spot and the second-placed team having to go through the playoffs, this game becomes extremely crucial. Having failed to qualify for the previous edition of the World Cup, the Azzurri will not want to leave anything to chance this time out.
Roberto Mancini’s men have won just two of their last three qualifier games (D2), with their last such game ending in a 5-0 win over Lithuania in September. Italy were involved in the UEFA Nations League last month, losing to Spain in the semi-finals before beating Belgium 2-1 in the third-place playoff finish. They will be hoping to carry that momentum into Friday’s clash.
As for Switzerland, after back-to-back draws in the qualifiers in September, they picked up two important wins last month, beating Northern Ireland and Lithuania, scoring six unanswered goals across the two games. Head coach Murat Yakin will be aiming for all three points to get closer to earning qualification for the World Cup.
The last time these two teams met in September, the game had ended in a goalless draw. But, given what’s at stake on Friday, both teams will be gunning for all three points. The Hard Tackle now takes a closer look at the squads ahead of this enticing match-up in Rome.
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Italy have had some injury-related withdrawals ahead of this contest as Giorgio Chiellini, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo and Ciro Immobile all miss out. Gianluca Scamacca has been called up as a replacement for Immobile. Marco Verratti is another notable absentee for the Azzurri.
Roberto Mancini will be setting his team up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Alessandro Bastoni is expected to step into the starting XI in the absence of Chiellini, partnering up with Leonardo Bonucci. Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Emerson Palmieri ought to slot in as the two full-backs.
Jorginho is the undisputed starter at the base of the three-man midfield unit for the European champions. Manuel Locatelli should also feature from the get-go in the absence of Verratti. Nicolo Barella picked up a slight injury in the weekend clash but is expected to be available after returning to training on Thursday. He should occupy his customary slot in the centre, with Matteo Pessina providing cover if needed.
Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne are certain starters out on the flanks for Italy. They will be key to unlocking a stubborn Switzerland defence on Friday night. With no Immobile and Andrea Belotti not 100% fit, Federico Bernardeschi could get the nod as the No. 9 for the Italians.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Bastoni, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Locatelli; Chiesa, Bernardeschi, Insigne
Like Italy, Switzerland have also had a number of withdrawals due to injury as Gregor Kobel, Nico Elvedi, Steven Zuber, Breel Embolo, and Christian Fassnacht have all been ruled out of the contest. In addition, they are also without key members Granit Xhaka and Haris Seferovic for the trip to Italy.
Murat Yakin is likely to line his team up in a 4-3-2-1 formation, to try and crowd out the midfield and prevent the likes of Barella and Jorginho from settling into their rhythm. Yann Somer is the obvious choice between the sticks for the visiting team, with the experienced stopper set to be shielded by the centre-back pairing of Fabian Schar and Manuel Akanji.
Silvan Widmer and Ricardo Rodriguez will be the two full-backs who will have the freedom to get up and down the flank and provide attacking width when Switzerland are on the front foot. Denis Zakaria, who is back after serving a suspension, will line up in the middle of the park alongside Fabian Frei and Moussa Sow.
The creative onus will fall onto the shoulders of Xherdan Shaqiri and Renato Steffen, who ought to line up in the two attacking midfield slots, supporting the lone striker who ought to be Mario Gavranovic.
Probable Lineup (4-3-2-1): Sommer; Widmer, Schar, Akanji, Rodriguez; Sow, Frei, Zakaria; Steffen, Shaqiri; Gavranovic
- This will be the 60th meeting between Italy and Switzerland. Of the previous 59, the former have won 29 while the latter have just seven (D23).
- Switzerland have kept a clean sheet in each of their last five FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers.
- Both Italy and Switzerland are unbeaten in their World Cup qualifiers so far, winning four of their six games (D2).
- Italy are undefeated in their last ten matches against Switzerland (W5 D5).
- Xherdan Shaqiri will be making his 99th appearance for Switzerland on Friday. He has 26 goals for the Nati and is the joint sixth-highest goal-getter for the nation.
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The 30-year-old’s future at his club has become a topic of major speculation of late as his contract with Napoli runs out at the end of the season. Despite all the talks, Insigne has been able to stay focused and help his team to the top of the Serie A table while scoring five goals and setting up four more in 14 games in all competitions.
He will now need to do the same for his nation when Italy take the field against Switzerland on Friday. With no Ciro Immobile and Marco Verratti, Insigne will have extra responsibilities to shoulder going forward as the Azzurri look to take a step further towards qualifying for the World Cup.
Italy 1-0 Switzerland
Both teams are unbeaten in their World Cup qualifying campaign so far and boast solid defensive units. As far as the attacking department goes, though, Italy have the edge despite the absence of Ciro Immobile. With Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne, they should have enough to eke past the visitors and pick up a narrow win to open up a three-point lead at the top of Group C.