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Match Preview & Projected Formations: Italy v Portugal

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The Azzurri will look to move the rebuilding project forward with another positive result.

Poland v Italy - UEFA Nations League A Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Who: Italy v Portugal

What: UEFA Nations League A Group 3

Where: San Siro, Milan, Italy

When: Saturday, November 17 at 2:45PM EST

How (to watch): ESPN+

Italy is back in action this Saturday when it takes on Portugal in its final UEFA Nations League group stage match. Italy is carrying the momentum from its last time out; October’s victory over Poland. The 1-0 victory over Poland was the most comprehensive Italy performance to date under the leadership of manager Roberto Mancini and ensured that Italy would avoid relegation to League B for the next addition of the Nations League.

Italy currently sits second in League A Group 3 on four points. The Azzurri trail group leaders Portugal, who have won both of their matches. The two wins includes a 1-0 victory over Italy in its opening match of Nations League play. With a win, Italy could keep its hopes alive of winning Group 3 and qualifying for the Final Four of Nations League A. In order for that to happen, Italy would have to beat Portugal and hope that already relegated Poland can upset Portugal on Tuesday in Guimaraes.

Despite shutout losses in their last two matches against Portugal, A Seleção is a team that the Azzurri have been historically good against on Italian soil. Italy has handled Portugal to the tune of a 10-0-1 record on the peninsula, including winning all four games played in Milan. On Saturday, Milan will equal Rome as city that has hosted Azzurri matches most often with 58 played in the city. Italy has enjoyed plenty of success in Milan with a 32-0-13 record in their last 45 matches in the city. Italy will have to channel all of that Milan magic when they host a Portuguese side that has only lost once in its last 11 matches.

Even with the hopes of making the final four somewhat slim, Mancini will look to continue to imprint his image on the Azzurri, as they gear up for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifying. With that in mind, Mancini is expected to run out a 4-3-3 formation featuring a mix of veterans and youngsters, as the team continues to transition to its next generation.

The majority of the experience will be found at the center back position with Juventus duo, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, expected to hold down the fort. The appearance will be Chiellini’s 100th in the Azzurri shirt. The two veterans will sit in front of Milan keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, as he continues to establish himself as the long term Italy number one. Flanking the Juve duo will be Roma man Alessandro Florenzi on the right and Fiorentina’s Cristiano Biraghi on the left. That means the defense will remain unchanged from last month’s Poland match.

Also expected to remain unchanged is the team’s midfield. Italy’s midfield of PSG’s Marco Verratti, Chelsea’s Jorghino, and Cagliari’s Nicolo Barella bossed the center of the park against the Poles and will likely be kept intact. Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini remains a candidiate to start over Barella, but with the success this trio had against Poland it’s unlikely Mancini will change things up.

Up front is the one place where a change will have to be made. Against Poland, Mancini employed Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne in a false nine role. Insigne was flanked by the two Federicos; Fiorentina’s Chiesa and Juve’s Bernardeschi. However, Bernardeschi pulled out of the team on Tuesday with an injury. With this is mind, Mancini is said to be favoring flanking Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, a traditional number nine, with Chiesa and Insigne. However, if he decides to keep Insigne in the false nine role then expect to see Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi in the line-up over Immobile. Whoever starts for the Azzurri, they will look to improve on their 32% shot on target rate, which is the worst among the 12 League A nations.

Probable Formations

  • Italy (4-3-3): G.Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Biraghi; Verratti, Jorginho, Barella; F.Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne. Manager: Roberto Mancini
  • Portugal (4-3-2-1): Rui Patricio; João Cancelo, Rúben Dias, Pepe, Mário Rui; Rúben Neves, William Carvalho, Rafa Silva; Pizzi, Bernardo Silvia; André Silva. Manager: Fernando Silva