Italy found easy success against Turkey in their first official match of the Euros, with a man-of-the-match performance from Leonardo Spinazzola driving the Azzurri to a 3-0 win. Because four of the six third-place teams in the group stages are let in to the round of 16, one more win for Italy guarantees them a slot in the knockout round; the big question is if that win will happen against Switzerland or Wales.
Call me overly optimistic, but I think Italy can handle the Swiss and push forward into the Round of 16. Given my relative assuredness that Italy can win against Switzerland even without Roma academy graduate Alessandro Florenzi, it’ll be important to watch out for a couple players in particular during the match who appear to be on Tiago Pinto’s radar.
Keep An Eye On
Granit Xhaka, currently of Arsenal, appears to be first in line for a transfer to José Mourinho’s Roma. When Switzerland teammate and Atalanta midfielder Remo Freuler was recently asked about Xhaka’s potential transfer, he responded that Xhaka was already asking him “how the roads in Italy (were).” That certainly sounds like a man who thinks a move to Rome is all but guaranteed, and given the small gap left between Arsenal and Roma’s valuation of Xhaka, I would honestly be more surprised if the Swiss deep-lying playmaker didn’t make the move to the Giallorossi now.
Xhaka is pretty important to this Switzerland side; even if he’s gotten some flak for recently dying his hair blonde (which I think he pulls off, frankly), he is their captain, and when Xhaka succeeds, Switzerland can succeed. Switzerland’s 1-1 draw against Wales in the first matchday was certainly unimpressive, and a lot of commentators placed that draw on Xhaka’s shoulders. Look for him to come out swinging against the Azzurri, if only to show that he’s got what it takes to both captain the national team and to go bleach blonde.
If there’s one player who has seen more links to the Giallorossi than Granit Xhaka, it’s probably Andrea Belotti. Although Tiago Pinto is reportedly looking at other options at striker because of Torino president Urbano Cairo’s curmudgeonliness, Belotti is still thought of as a high-priority target for Roma. Belotti is splitting time up front with Ciro Immobile for the Azzurri these days, as neither has truly put a lockdown on the striker slot in Mancini’s starting eleven.
The predicted formation for this match shows Immobile starting upfront, and if that happens, expect to see Belotti as a super-sub. If you’re a Roma fan, you better start crossing your fingers that Belotti doesn’t take that super-sub role and turn it into a chance to bang in goal after goal during the Euros. Torino’s high asking price will only get higher if and when Belotti brings home silverware for Italy, and such tactics will likely push him out of Roma’s price range.