MX23RW : Wednesday, April 24 02:34:46| >> :600:91631031:91631031:
May 29, 2016 at 7.45pm UK at ​Ta'Qali National Stadium
Pelle (57')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Preview: Italy vs. Scotland

Sports Mole previews the Euro 2016 warm-up match between Italy and Scotland at the Ta'Qali National Stadium in Malta.

Italy will continue their preparations for Euro 2016 on Sunday when they take on Scotland at the Ta'Qali National Stadium in Malta.

Antonio Conte's side have just two more matches before the tournament gets underway, while Scotland are building towards their qualification bid for the 2018 World Cup.


Antonio Conte watches on during an Italy training session on May 25, 2016© Getty Images

Italy have a fine record in major international tournaments, but the bookies make them just sixth favourites to go all the way in France this summer.

Their recent form hasn't suggested that they warrant shorter odds than that, though, with the Azzurri heading into Sunday's match without a win in four games since ending their qualification campaign.

Convincing defeats to Belgium and, in their most recent outing, Germany have perhaps justified their place behind those two teams in the list of favourites, but they did also hold Spain to a draw in March.

Even so, Conte will know that his side need to improve if he is to enjoy a positive send-off as Italy boss, with the Chelsea job awaiting him after this summer's tournament is over.

Italy have just two warm-up matches before getting underway on June 13, with Scotland and Finland providing the opposition - both teams who have failed to qualify for Euro 2016.

Questions could be raised as to whether the Azzurri are adequately preparing themselves for a tough group that has seen them drawn against Belgium, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland, then, although Sunday's meeting with Scotland should give them a good idea of what the latter may have in store.

Italy went through their qualification campaign unbeaten - one of only four teams to do that - winning seven of their 10 outings including each of their last four to hold off the challenge of Croatia.

They weren't as convincing as their results suggest, though, with only two wins coming by more than a one-goal margin, while second-placed Croatia both scored more and conceded fewer goals than the Azzurri.

Their recent record in friendlies is poor too, with no wins from their last six and just three from their last 23 - a run that stretches back to November 2011.

They have only beaten Azerbaijan in their last five outings away from home, with the most recent two of those seeing them concede seven goals and score just twice against Belgium and Germany.

Recent form: WWLDDL


Scotland manager Gordon Strachan reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Scotland and Poland at Hampden Park on October 08, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.© Getty Images

Scotland have certainly made progress under Gordon Strachan, but for the ninth time in a row they will be sat on their sofas watching a major international tournament go by this summer.

The Tartan Army were arguably drawn in the most difficult of the qualification groups, with Germany, Poland and Republic of Ireland all ultimately finishing above them in the standings, and they eventually missed out to the latter by just three points.

There were some memorable moments along the way, with two draws against Poland, two near misses against Germany and victory over Ireland, but ultimately it was a 1-0 defeat in Georgia last September that proved to be costly.

Despite that disappointment, Strachan signed a two-year extension to his contract and will take Scotland through to the next World Cup, and he will be using the upcoming double-header against Italy and Euro 2016 hosts France to ready his squad for their latest bid to reach a first major tournament since 1998.

On paper it looks like a kinder qualification draw, with England, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia posing the competition, but with just one automatic place and one playoff place, Scotland are expected to find themselves in a tussle with Slovakia for second.

They will go into Sunday's match in good form having won each of their last three games without conceding a goal, including back-to-back 1-0 wins over Czech Republic and Denmark in their March fixtures.

Another victory would give them four wins on the bounce for the first time since 2007, which was also the last time that they kept three clean sheets in a row away from home. They haven't kept four clean sheets on the bounce home and away since 1997.

Their recent record in friendlies is impressive too, with only one defeat in their last nine and nine victories from their last 13. England are responsible for both of their defeats in that time, and you have to go back more than four years for Scotland's last friendly loss against a team other than the auld enemy.

All of that has not been enough to end the 18-year wait for an appearance at a major finals, though, and Scotland will once again have to make do with being a warm-up act for teams on their way to France this summer.

Recent form: LLDWWW

Team News

Graziano Pelle of Italy celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the international friendly match beteween Italy and England at Juventus Arena on March 31, 2015Graziano Pelle of Italy celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the internatio© Getty Images

This will be Conte's last chance to look at players before he must finalise his squad for the Euros, and as a result he is likely to experiment with his selection.

There are places up for grabs in midfield after both Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio were ruled out through injury, but seven players must still be cut from the provisional squad by the May 31 deadline.

Up front, Southampton's Graziano Pelle should make the final roster having scored four goals during Conte's reign - more than anyone else - while fellow English-based players Angelo Ogbonna and Matteo Darmian will also be hopeful of inclusion.

Scotland, meanwhile, have been hit by a number of withdrawals since Strachan named his original squad, with Lee Wallace, Chris Martin, Alan Hutton, Allan McGregor and Scott Bain all pulling out.

The Tartan Army will also be without Andy Robertson, Robert Snodgrass, Shaun Maloney and Barry Bannan for this game due to their participation in the Championship playoff final at Wembley, although they will join up with the squad ahead of their match against France on June 4.

In such a makeshift squad, Barrie McKay could make his senior international debut, while Callum Paterson and Stephen Kingsley are the two other uncapped outfield players in the squad.

Italy possible starting lineup:
Sirigu; Darmian, Ogbonna, Rugani, Zappacosta; Sturaro, Montolivo, Candreva, Benassi, Florenzi; Insigne

Scotland possible starting lineup:
Marshall; Martin, Paterson, Berra, Kingsley; Fletcher, McArthur, Ritchie, McKay, Anya; Fletcher

Head To Head

These two sides have met on 10 previous occasions, with Scotland managing just one victory in that time - a 1-0 triumph in a World Cup qualifier back in November 1965 (D2 L7).

Only one Scottish player has ever even scored against Italy on foreign soil, with Kevin Gallacher getting that solitary goal in October 1993.

The last meeting between these two came in November 2007, and it ended in heartbreak for the Scots as Christian Panucci's 90th-minute winner ensured that they would not qualify for Euro 2008.

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We say: Italy 1-1 Scotland

Scotland are the form team of these two heading into this match and, while a full-strength Italian side would expect to triumph, the fact that Conte is likely to experiment should give Scotland a chance. We can see them getting something out of this game.

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Who will win this international friendly between Italy and Scotland?

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifier between Scotland and Poland at Hampden Park on October 08, 2015 in Glasgow, Scotland.
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