England will host Italy in an empty Molineux as the Three Lions aim to keep their hopes in the UEFA Nations League Group A3 alive.

England’s start to the ongoing UEFA Nations League campaign has been far from ideal. The Three Lions enter the final round of fixtures before heading into the off-season, desperately needing a win to keep their hopes alive in this particular group.

Having played the first two games away from home, England will return to home soil, albeit to an empty Molineux, as UEFA’s sanctions take precedence. They lost to Hungary in a hostile environment and only managed to salvage a late draw against Germany, who were dominant throughout the fixture in Munich.

Harry Kane’s late penalty disappointed the German fans and earned England a valuable point when they were seemingly destined for another defeat. That draw kept their hopes alive in the group, although they will still need to move up the standings, which is possible only by defeating Italy.

Roberto Mancini has experimented with his teams in the first two games. His more youthful squad drew against Germany, while the crop of more experienced professionals got the job done against Hungary in the second game. That win took them to the top, and another win will cement their place there.

Italy can also take positives from their amazing form in away games. The Azzurri have not lost a single game on the road since their defeat to Portugal in September 2018. It’s quite an astonishing run, although their recent overall results since the Euro 2020 Final have been not much to write home about.

Italy will have get another shot at England in a repeat of that Wembley Final, although they will have to play out this clash in an empty Molineux. These are repercussions of the Euro 2020 Final, which was mired by crowd troubles as England received sanctions from UEFA.

Team News & Tactics

England

Gareth Southgate may have to contend without Kalvin Phillips for the last two matches of this international round. The midfielder hobbled off after a collision with Germany’s Nico Schlotterbeck very early in the clash. James Justin is also out of this encounter, having missed the clash in Munich.

Phil Foden and Fikayo Tomori remain doubtful again, although Marc Guehi could be fully-fit after he remained on the bench against Germany. Southgate could revert to a back-four and field a more attack-minded team against Italy, with plenty of changes expected to the team.

Reece James could come in for Kyle Walker at right-back. John Stones and Harry Maguire could be the preferred central defensive partnership, with Kieran Trippier likely to retain his left-back position.

The early introduction of Jude Bellingham against Germany gave Southgate some food for thought and the manager is likely to retain the Borussia Dortmund youngster in his three-man midfield. Declan Rice will continue to play the anchor role. In addition, there could be a start for Conor Gallagher, who is suited to this particular system.

Jarrod Bowen and Jack Grealish impressed during their cameos against Germany and could be starting against Italy. Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka could make way, while Harry Kane will continue to lead the line for England.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Pickford; James, Stones, Maguire, Trippier; Gallagher, Rice, Bellingham; Bowen, Kane, Grealish

Italy

Roberto Mancini has lost several of his players since announcing the squad for this international round of fixtures. Despite their win against Hungary, the manager is expected to make changes to the team in many areas.

Leonardo Bonucci remained on the bench against Hungary and could come into the side to replace Gianluca Mancini in central defence. However, Alessandro Bastoni will keep his place at the back, while Leonardo Spinazzola will be retained as the left-back.

There could be a change at right-back as Giovanni Di Lorenzo is expected to replace Davide Calabria. However, Mancini will look to make minimal changes to his midfield, with Sandro Tonali expected to come in place of Bryan Cristante at the base.

Nicolo Barella and Lorenzo Pellegrini are expected to keep their places in the midfield three, with the latter in great goalscoring form. Giacomo Raspadori may make way for Gianluca Scamacca in the central striker role, with Matteo Politano and Alessio Zerbin likely to provide support from wide areas.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Bastoni, Spinazzola; Barella, Tonali, Pellegrini; Politano, Scamacca, Zerbin

Key Stats

  • Harry Kane remains four goals away from becoming England’s all-time top scorer.
  • England are winless in back-to-back games for the first time since September 2018.
  • Italy have been unbeaten away from home since September 2018, when they lost to Portugal in the Nations League.
  • Italy have not kept a clean sheet in their last five international games.
  • England have managed three shut-outs in their last six games.

Player to Watch

Harry Kane

Having been kept quiet for most of the game, Harry Kane came up with a key moment against Germany, winning the penalty and subsequently converting the spot-kick, which changed the course of the clash. The forward registered his 50th international goal and needs four more to become England’s all-time top scorer.

However, he has more to worry about than chasing the goals record. Kane must lead by example and be involved from start to finish against Italy. The Tottenham Hotspur superstar will have to become the focal point of this England attack and be more relevant on the pitch.

Prediction

England 1-1 Italy

It isn’t easy to justify any predictions that favour either side after their recent performances. Nevertheless, England have a valid chance to register their first win of this campaign, although they have lacked tactically so far and look disjointed in the build-up.

Meanwhile, Italy have been more smash and grab against the big sides recently, although they performed better against Hungary. Predicting a winner here could be tough, as the game has all the hallmarks of a mundane draw, with both teams likely scoring at some point in the clash.

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