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Match Preview: Portugal v. Italy (Update: 23 Man Roster Released)

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Mancini likely to make changes after disappointing display versus Poland.

Italy v Poland - UEFA Nations League A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Italy’s inaugural Nations League match, which also happened to Roberto Mancini’s first competitive match as Azzurri boss, left a lot to be desired. The match, which was held in Bologna, did little to alleviate the bad taste that lingers from missing this summer’s World Cup. The bolognese crowd saw the Azzurri manage just a 1-1 draw against Poland. However, Mancini’s side will get another shot to move the rebuilding project forward on Monday when they travel to Lisbon.

On Friday, Mancini lined up his side in a 4-3-3. The side featured Donnrumma in goal, with a defense of Biraghi, Chiellini, Bonucci, and Zappacosta. In midfield were Jorginho, Pellegrini, and Gagliardini, while Balotelli was flanked by Bernardeschi in attack. That side did little, as Poland got the better of them in the first half with a goal from Napoli man Piotr Zieliński.

The second half saw an improvement from the home side, after the introductions of Bonaventura, Belotti, and Chiesa for Pellegrini, Balotelli, and Insigne. However, all Italy could manage was a penalty kick, which was drawn by Chiesa, and converted by Jorginho. With his side’s struggles in mind, it looks like Mancini will make, as many as, five changes heading into Monday’s match in Lisbon.

There were some early rumors that Mancini may change to a 4-2-3-1, but according to reports, it appears that he will be stick with the 4-3-3. The main changes look like they could be in attack where Italy looked rather uninspiring for much of Friday’s match. It looks like only Federico Bernardeschi will retain his starting spot in the trident. On the opposite wing it looks like Lorenzo Insigne will make way for Federico Chiesa. Meanwhile, it appears as if Andrea Belotti has a slight edge over Ciro Immobile to replace Balotelli at striker.

The midfield seems to be a little more up in the air at this point. The only player who looks guaranteed to start is Jorginho. Meanwhile, Friday’s surprise inclusion, Roberto Gagliardini, looks like he could surprisingly start again. Roma midfielder, Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was pulled at halftime for Giacomo Bonaventura will likely make way for the Milan man in Monday’s starting XI. However, Roma Bryan Cristante and Fiorentina’s Marco Benassi are also candidates to start in the midfield.

The least amount of shakeup appears to be on defense where the only change looks like it will be Genoa’s Domenico Criscito in for Cristiano Biraghi at left back. Whichever XI Mancini rolls out will look to take advantage of a Ronaldo-less Portugal side after he opted out of international duty. A positive result in the Portuguese capital could go a long way in Italy’s quest to win League A, Group 3 in the inaugural Nations League.

Update: 23 Man Roster Released (Monday 8:30AM)

This morning Roberto Mancini released his list of 23 players who would dress for today’s match versus Portugal. Left off that list were Roma’s Lorenzo Pelegrini and Nicolo Zaniolo. In addition to Pellegrini, fellow Friday starters Mario Balotelli, Cristiano Biraghi, and Davide Zappacosta won’t feature today. Also left off that list were Alessio Cragno and Daniele Rugani. With Zaniolo and Pellegrini not making the cut, the only Roma player to wear azzurro today will be Bryan Cristante.

Italy squad for Portugal: Sirigu, Perin, Donnarumma; Emerson, Chiellini, Criscito, Romagnoli, Caldara, Lazzari, Bonucci; Jorginho, Bonaventura, Benassi, Gagliardini, Bernardeschi, Barella, Cristante; Zaza, Belotti, Insigne, Berardi, Chiesa, Immobile

Gianluca Di Marzio also released his updated projected starting lineup.

Gianluca Di Marzio’s probable line-up (4-3-3):Donnarumma; Lazzari, Bonucci, Chiellini, Criscito; Gagliardini, Jorginho, Benassi; Chiesa, Immobile, Bonaventura