England’s perfect record since last year’s World Cup will be put under serious threat when they face Italy in a friendly at the Juventus Stadium on Tuesday (19:45 BST, live on ITV1).
Italy are themselves undefeated since last summer’s tournament, having won five and lost two of their seven subsequent internationals. They are second in Euro 2016 qualification group H with 11 points, two shy of current leaders Croatia.
Antonio Conte’s side drew 2-2 away to Bulgaria on Saturday. They made a purposeful start and were ahead within four minutes thanks to an own goal. However, they then conceded twice themselves to fall behind before the 20th minute. Bulgaria defended resolutely thereafter, but Italy’s equaliser eventually came via a well-taken strike from debutant Eder.
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Conte replaced Cesare Prandelli following the latter’s resignation in the wake of Italy’s group stage exit from Brazil 2014. The former Juventus coach – who won three consecutive Serie A titles with the Turin-based club – has tried to regenerate the squad by handing debuts to eight players. Franco Vazquez and Mirko Valdifiori could be added on that list on Tuesday.
Italy have not yet been totally convincing under Conte’s command but it is still early days and he is still searching for players capable of implementing the 3-5-2 formation with which he enjoyed such success with Juventus. That this period of readjustment has coincided with a unbeaten run of results suggests he is the right man for job given time to fully find his feet.
Davide Santon has been drafted into the squad for this match in place of Matteo Darmian, who picked up an ankle injury in the draw with Bulgaria.
England have won all seven of their internationals following their disappointing group stage exit from Brazil 2014, including five wins out of five in qualifying for Euro 2016. They top Group E with 15 points, six clear of Slovenia in second.
Roy Hodgson’s (pictured) men recorded a comfortable 4-0 victory at home Lithuania at Wembley on Friday. First-half goals from Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck and second-half strikes from Raheem Sterling and debutant Harry Kane saw them win by a margin that could have been even more handsome had other good chances been efficiently converted.
As in the friendly victory over Scotland last November, England showed decent composure in possession, allied to an ability to up the tempo as and when required. While they could have been a little more clinical at one end of the pitch, at the other there was a fifth clean sheet in seven matches. They conceded just two shots, only one of which was on target.
Yet while recent performances and results have been worthy of praise, it should be noted that England also qualified for last year’s World Cup with an unbeaten qualifying record. It is results in tournament play that really matter and this match will provide a good test for Hodgson’s side against another team likely to reach the knockout stages next summer.
Sterling, Welbeck, James Milner and Leighton Baines all returned to their respective clubs following Friday’s victory over Lithuania, with Hodgson drafting in Southampton’s Ryan Bertrand to provide cover for likely starter Kieran Gibbs at left-back.
Italy v England Betting Tips Verdict
Italy were 2-1 victors when these sides met during the group stage of last year’s World Cup. All in all, the two countries have met 25 times in international competition, with Italy winning 10, England winning eight and seven encounters ending in draws. England have lost five and won zero of the last six fixtures on Italian soil. Their last win in Italy came back in 1961.
Conte has confirmed that he intends to test out some of the newer additions to his squad, but England should still expect to face a strong starting XI in Turin. There are some deficiencies in this current Italian group – most notably, the lack of a top-line striker – but they are nevertheless capable of making things difficult for Hodgson’s side.
Italy certainly represent the strongest opponents England have faced since last summer. While some experimentation can be expected, Hodgson will still be keen to come away with a positive result. His side have looked quite good over their last few matches and should be capable of coming away from Turin with a draw.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 12/5 with Bet365.
- Quick starts have been a feature of this Italian side since Conte’s arrival as head coach, with a goal scored within the opening 25 minutes of five of their seven matches under his command. There were three goals inside the opening 20 minutes of their draw with Bulgaria on Friday. Back the first goal to be scored before the 31st minute at evens with Paddy Power.