In Roberto Mancini’s first qualifier as the CT of Italy, the Azzurri achieved just the result they were looking for, as Italy defeated Finland 2-0 in Udine on Saturday behind the goals by youngsters Nicolò Barella of Cagliri and Moise Kean of Juventus. With the three points in the bag, the Azzurri will travel to Parma for their second Euro 2020 qualifier of this international break. It was the fourth straight clean sheet for the Azzurri; the first time this has happened since June 2016 under Antonio Conte’s direction.
On Tuesday, the Azzurri look to extend that streak to five when they will host minnows Liechtenstein at the Ennio Tardini. On paper, this should be Italy’s most straightforward qualifier of all. The Blue-Reds are coming off a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Greece in its first qualifier on Saturday and are currently ranked 171st in the world by FIFA.
Euro 2020 Qualifying, Italy vs. Liechtenstein: March 26th. 20:45 CET/3:45 EDT. Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma.
Liechtenstein is known for being the whooping boys of their respective qualifying groups; all but twice finishing last. On top of that, the central European side has only won once in the last calendar year; a 2-0 win over Gibraltar in UEFA Nations League play. Meanwhile, Liechtenstein is a side Italy is familiar with having beaten them handily twice during World Cup 2018 qualifying, on the road in Vaduz 4-0 in November 2016 and then 5-0 in Udine in June of 2017.
Mancini will be looking for a similar result from his young hungry side, as it looks to improve on a solid, but not spectacular performance against the Fins. In that match, the Azzurri controlled large swaths of possession, but didn’t create nearly enough chances. This time around Italy needs to be more clinical, and with this in mind Mancini could look to make a couple changes from Saturday’s starting XI.
Mancini, who was already without Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Chiesa, and Alessandro Florenzi due to injury on Saturday, also lost Cristiano Piccini, Stephan El Shaarawy, Mattia Perin in training on Sunday.
Gianluigi Donnarumma will retain his starting place in the Azzurri net, while half of the defense in front of him will remain intact. Leonardo Bonucci will again start at center back and likely captain the side, while his partner Giorgio Chiellini will be swapped out for Alessio Romagnoli of Milan. Meanwhile, Cristiano Biraghi will start again at left back while Leonardo Spinazzola will likely replace the injured Piccini on the right.
In the midfield, Saturday’s man of the match candidate, Barella, and fellow strong performer Marco Verratti look set to start again. Meanwhile, it looks like Nicolò Zaniolo or Sassuolo’s Stefano Sensi could get a look if Mancini decides to replace Jorginho, who was mediocre against the Fins.
Meanwhile, with Chiesa, Insigne, and now El Shaarawy out, the wing positions are a little shorthanded. That means Kean and fellow Juve man Federico Bernardeschi should again start on the wings. One place Mancini could opt to make a change is up top; Ciro Immobile was again average in an Azzurri shirt, while veteran Fabio Quagliarella played a strong ten minutes off the bench, so don’t be surprised if the 35 year old gets the nod, as he looks to become the oldest scorer ever for Italy.
Italia (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Spinazzola, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Biraghi; Verratti, Zaniolo, Barella; Moise Kean, Quagliarella, Bernardeschi. Ct: Roberto Mancini
Liechtenstein (4-1-4-1): B.Büchel; Wolfinger, Kaufmann, Goppel, Rechsteiner; S.Wieser; Hasler, Polverino, M.Büchel, Salanovic; Gubser. Ct: Helgi Kolvidsson