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Italy national football team
European Championship | Group Stage
Jun 15, 2024 at 8pm UK
Albania national football team

2 - 1

Bastoni (11'), Barella (16')
Pellegrini (22'), Calafiori (51')
FT(HT: 2-1)
Bajrami (1')
Broja (51'), Hoxha (74')

Preview: Italy vs. Albania - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's European Championship clash between Italy and Albania, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Starting the defence of their European title, Italy meet Group B rivals Albania on Saturday evening, when both nations kick off their Euro 2024 campaign.

While the Azzurri are ultimately aiming to win back-to-back Euros, their neighbours are simply hoping to advance from the group stage on just their second major tournament appearance.

Match preview

Italy players pose for a team group photo before the match on June 4, 2024© Reuters

Now taking part at an 11th European Championship, Italy can join Germany and Spain on three wins if they go on to retain the Henri Delaunay Trophy next month in Berlin.

They will also attempt to become just the second team to win successive Euros after their Spanish counterparts did so in 2008 and 2012 - but few pundits have Luciano Spalletti's side among the favourites to prevail.

The Azzurri have arrived in Germany unbeaten in six games, yet the spectre of failing to qualify for the last World Cup - and then only squeezing through qualifying after losing former boss Roberto Mancini - looms in the background.

Since succeeding Euro 2020-winner Mancini last year, Spalletti has nonetheless steered his nation to six wins and three draws - and Italy are ranked ninth in the world by FIFA - but a tough task awaits in Group B: Spain, Croatia and Albania will all pose problems for an injury-hit squad.

Despite defensive absences, La Nazionale have not conceded a goal in their last 317 minutes of play - including a 0-0 draw with Turkey and Sunday's 1-0 win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in two pre-tournament friendlies - and they will now try to maintain an impressive record at European Championships.

Italy have conceded a miserly sum of just six goals across their last 12 matches in the competition, the most recent of which was in their 2021 triumph at Wembley, when upsetting final hosts England to claim glory via a penalty shootout.

To aid their aim of repeating that feat, the Azzurri must surely take care of business in Dortmund, as ahead of two testing group fixtures, they meet opponents they have beaten in all four previous meetings.

Albania's Jasir Asani celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on October 12, 2023© Reuters

While Italy nervously edged past Ukraine to qualify, Albania topped their group in some style: after losing their opening game against Poland, they went unbeaten through the next seven, finishing ahead of both the Poles and second-placed Czech Republic.

The Euro 2024 draw was not kind, though, and their first fixture brings them face-to-face with some familiar foes - no fewer than nine players in the Albanian squad play their club football in Serie A.

In addition to compatriots Edy Reja and Christian Panucci, Italian coach Gianni De Biasi previously held the post of Albania manager, taking his adopted country to Euro 2016, where they secured their sole victory at a major finals to date - against Romania in the final group game.

The Eagles were still eliminated on that occasion, and current coach Sylvinho - the first Brazilian boss to lead a side at the Euros since Luiz Felipe Scolari in 2008 - has a huge job on his hands to avoid an early exit in Germany.

Certainly, recent friendly successes over Liechtenstein and Azerbaijan - the latter a 3-1 win in Tirana last week - will do little to persuade doubters that Albania can progress from this year's 'Group of Death'.

Nevertheless, they have very little to lose in Group B and have become ever more accustomed to winning, so an upset or two could be on the agenda.

Italy form (all competitions):

Albania form (all competitions):

Team News

Italy head coach Luciano Spalletti reacts on June 4, 2024© Reuters

After plenty of speculation surrounding Italy's setup for their Euro 2024 opener, Luciano Spalletti appears to have settled for an initial back four - despite some major absences.

Both Francesco Acerbi (groin) and Giorgio Scalvini (ACL) withdrew from the Azzurri's preliminary squad due to injury, but Bologna's Riccardo Calafiori is expected to partner fellow left-footer Alessandro Bastoni in central defence.

Domenico Berardi, Destiny Udogie, Nicolo Zaniolo and suspended midfielder Sandro Tonali have also missed out on the action this summer, but Juventus youngster Nicolo Fagioli was called up despite spending several months on the sidelines because of a betting ban.

Fagioli joined Inter Milan pair Davide Frattesi and Nicolo Barella - the latter of whom created more chances than any other Italian player during qualifying - in overcoming minor muscular issues this week.

Elsewhere, captain Gianluigi Donnarumma starts in goal, while a superb end to the season should see Gianluca Scamacca beat Argentina-born striker Mateo Retegui to selection up front.

Scamacca's Atalanta BC teammate Berat Djimsiti will skipper Albania from central defence, having played a key role in La Dea's Europa League triumph last month.

Deep-lying playmaker Kristjan Asllani won this year's Scudetto with Inter, while both Nedim Bajrami and Marash Kumbulla were in the Sassuolo squad recently demoted to Serie B.

After a tough time at club level, Armando Broja is set to spearhead the Albanian attack, as veteran striker Sokol Cikalleshi - who featured in all eight qualifiers - was dropped and then announced his international retirement.

Meanwhile, there is some uncertainty as to which goalkeeper will start for Sylvinho's side, as Brentford back-up Thomas Strakosha vies with Empoli reserve Etrit Berisha for a place between the posts.

Italy possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Calafiori, Bastoni, Dimarco; Jorginho, Barella; Frattesi, Pellegrini, Chiesa; Scamacca

Albania possible starting lineup:
E. Berisha; Hysaj, Ismajli, Djimsiti, Mitaj; Asllani, Ramadani; Asani, Bajrami, Seferi; Broja

SM words green background

We say: Italy 1-0 Albania

This contest will already have a high-stakes feel, given how strong the other teams are in Group B, so it could be a tense and cautious encounter in Dortmund.

Indeed, the points' destiny may be decided by just one goal, with Italy having sufficient guile and experience to get a slim win over the line.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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Albania players pose for a team group photo before the match on November 20, 2023
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Group A

Q Germany Germany32107
Q Switzerland Switzerland31205
3 Hungary Hungary31023
4 Scotland flag Scotland30121

Group B

Q Spain Spain33009
Q Italy Italy31114
3 Croatia Croatia30212
4 Albania national flag Albania30121

Group C

Q England flag England31205
Q Denmark Denmark30303
Q Slovenia Slovenia30303
4 Serbia Serbia30212

Group D

Q Austria Austria32016
Q France France31205
Q Netherlands Netherlands31114
4 Poland Poland30121

Group E

Q Romania Romania31114
Q Belgium Belgium31114
Q Slovakia Slovakia31114
4 Ukraine Ukraine31114

Group F

Q Portugal Portugal32016
Q Turkey Turkey32016
Q Georgia Georgia31114
4 Czech Republic Czech Republic30121

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