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Mar 27, 2018 at 8pm UK at ​Wembley
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Preview: England vs. Italy - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole provides predicted lineups, team news and a full match preview of Tuesday's friendly international between England and Italy.

England head into their home friendly with Italy looking to make it two wins out of two during the March international break, having defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in Amsterdam last Friday.

The Wembley Stadium showdown with an Azzurri side still hurting from a failed World Cup qualification campaign could have a major influence on manager Gareth Southgate's squad selection for the finals in Russia.


A dishevelled Gareth Southgate during an England training session on March 20, 2018© Offside

A lone Jesse Lingard strike proved enough to down Holland in England's last fixture, and fine margins have often decided their games since Southgate took on the top job in November last year.

The Three Lions have scored just five goals in their last six fixtures, but crucially, they have conceded just once during that time, a run which dates back to their 2-1 win over Slovakia during World Cup qualifying.

Impressive clean sheets in goalless shutouts against Germany and Brazil hint at progress under Southgate, particularly in defence, though the former centre-back still appears uncertain on the matter of his best team.

England are a work in progress under the 47-year-old, who has brought fresh blood into the international setup but refused to close the door entirely on the old guard.

Those who were once guaranteed a spot in the Three Lions squad now must work for the right to wear the shirt, and the Italy friendly presents the perfect opportunity for fringe players to stake their claim for a World Cup spot.

Southgate named a youthful side against the Netherlands last time out, and could be tempted to give some of his more experienced squad members a runout against the Azzurri, including Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young, Jamie Vardy, Adam Lallana and Dele Alli.

Prior to those back-to-back draws with Germany and Brazil, England have struggled against teams ranked above them in the world - Italy are currently two places ahead of their hosts in 12th - so the match at Wembley is a chance for the Three Lions to prove they can hold their own against Europe's elite.

After the Italy clash, England have just two remaining friendlies to play ahead of the World Cup finals - home meetings with Nigeria and Costa Rica in June.

Recent form: WWWDDW


Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in action for his side during the international friendly with Germany in Milan on November 15, 2016© SilverHub

Italy are one of the most successful international teams on the planet, but it is not the best of times to be one of their supporters.

A failed World Cup qualification campaign, which ended with a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sweden in the playoffs, still weighs heavy on the Azzurri camp and a 2-0 reverse to Argentina in their previous international friendly did little to dispel those bad memories.

Italy finished second in European qualifying Group G behind Spain, and the reverse to the Swedes which followed cost Gian Piero Ventura his job as head coach.

More than two months on from their World Cup elimination, Azzurri U21 manager Luigi Di Biagio took over as caretaker boss, and his first match in charge was the aforementioned defeat to Argentina in Manchester.

Di Biagio has already convinced veteran internationals Gianluigi Buffon and Giorgio Chiellini to reverse their decisions to retire from international football, but he has not been touted as a candidate to take on the job permanently.

A new head coach is expected to be installed this summer, and big names including Antonio Conte, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Mancini have been linked with the position.

After failing to reach a World Cup for the first time since 1958, the Azzurri are expected to freshen up their ranks by giving youth a chance, and there is no shortage of that in their squad to face England.

AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini and Fiorentina winger Federico Chiesa are among their rising stars who could feature at Wembley.

Recent form: WDWLDL

Team News

Jack Butland in action during the Premier League game between Bournemouth and Stoke City on May 6, 2017© SilverHub

Two players who featured against the Netherlands have since bowed out of England duty through injury - Liverpool defender Joe Gomez and Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere.

The Three Lions, however, have plenty of cover for these positions, with Burnley's James Tarkowski and Tottenham Hotspur star Alli potential candidates to fill the voids.

In the continued absence of the injured Harry Kane, Southgate could give the likes of Vardy or Welbeck a runout in the final third, having put his faith in youth against Holland, fielding Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Lingard in a triple-pronged attack.

Southgate allowed Everton's Jordan Pickford to stake his claim for the goalkeeping gloves at the World Cup last time out, and will give Stoke City's Jack Butland his chance to do the same against Italy.

Meanwhile, the Azzurri will be without veteran defender Chiellini for the visit to London, meaning that Manchester United's Matteo Darmian could be drafted into the starting XI to replace him, having served as an unused substitute against Argentina.

The highly-rated Donnarumma could replace his mentor Buffon between the goal posts, while Di Biagio is likely to spearhead his attack with either Andrea Belotti or Patrick Cutrone.

England possible starting lineup:
Butland; Maguire, Stones, Walker; Trippier, Rose, Henderson, Lingard, Sterling, Alli; Welbeck

Italy possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; De Sciglio, Bonucci, Rugani, Florenzi; Verratti, Jorginho, Pellegrini; Insigne, Immobile, Candreva

Head To Head

Italy have the superior record in this fixture, winning 11 of their 26 matches against England. The Three Lions have defeated the Azzurri on eight occasions and the remaining seven contests were obviously draws.

They last met in March 2015 and that game ended in a 1-1 stalemate, with Graziano Pelle and Andros Townsend on the scoresheet at the Juventus Stadium in Turin.

England will have painful memories of the last time the two teams met competitively, as they went down 2-1 to goals from Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli at the 2014 World Cup, a game in which Daniel Sturridge's equaliser ended up being little more than consolation.

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We say: England 2-1 Italy

Both England and Italy are teams in transition and works in progress, but with World Cup qualification under their belts and a permanent manager in place, the Three Lions have more solid foundations to build on. Confidence in the away camp will be low ahead of the match, and with the home crowd behind them, Southgate's men are in good stead to build on recent positive results by edging out their opponents.

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Who will win the friendly international between England and Italy?

England winger Raheem Sterling in action during his side's international friendly with Spain at Wembley on November 15, 2016
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