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Preview: Italy vs. Czech Republic - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Friday's International Friendly clash between Italy and Czech Republic, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Title contenders Italy conclude their preparations for Euro 2020 on Friday, as they meet fellow finalists Czech Republic in Bologna.

Having finalised their squad following last week's thumping of San Marino, the Azzurri now have one final fixture to warm up for this summer's main event.


Match preview

Moise Kean celebrates scoring for Italy on March 23, 2019© Reuters

Italy coach Roberto Mancini named his final 26-man squad for Euro 2020 earlier this week, as his in-form side ready themselves for the challenge of contesting Group A with Switzerland, Turkey and Wales in the coming weeks.

Ahead of opening their quest for continental glory at Stadio Olimpico against Turkey next week, Mancini further whittled down his provisional selection after a training camp at Coverciano and a 7-0 win over neighbouring San Marino.

Having contributed to the defensive instability which effectively wrecked Roma's season this spring, Gianluca Mancini was among the men to miss out, along with Everton's Moise Kean, Atalanta midfielder Matteo Pessina and Napoli winger Matteo Politano.

Now looking ahead to Friday's fixture at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, former Manchester City manager Mancini will be aware that expectation is growing throughout the peninsula.

Since taking the reins in May 2018, he has the highest win rate of any Italy manager - coming out on top in over two-thirds of his 28 games to date - and his new-look Azzurri have rattled in 67 goals and conceded just 14 during the process.

With the ink still drying on a new contract that runs until 2026, Mancini has so far made a success of bouncing back from the bitter humiliation of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Italy have since eased to qualification for both the Euros and the semi-finals of the ongoing Nations League; also claiming three wins from three on the road to Qatar 2022, while extending their unbeaten home record in World Cup qualifiers to 56 games.

In all, the four-time world champions have gone undefeated during their last 25 outings, so will want to avoid breaking such momentum against the Czechs this week, whatever the strength of their starting XI.

West Ham United's Vladimir Coufal in action for the Czech Republic on November 14, 2019© Reuters

As they will not kick off their campaign at the Euros until June 14 - versus Scotland at Hampden Park - the Czech Republic will only now face their first friendly since the end of the 2020-21 season.

In fact, their preparations have been disrupted by Scotland's COVID-19 regulations, as they were due to train in Edinburgh throughout the summer, but will now base themselves at home instead - travelling to and from the UK for each of their finals fixtures.

Before meeting Albania in Prague next week, they must first leave the Czech capital for Emilia-Romagna, having experienced a mixed start to World Cup qualifying during the last international period in March.

Though a regulation thumping of Estonia was followed by their impressive home draw with Group E powerhouses Belgium, the Euro 96 finalists' most recent outing ended in a disappointing defeat to Wales.

Now readying themselves for a seventh successive European Championship finals, Jaroslav Silhavy's team will feature in Group D alongside England, Scotland and Croatia, with their foundations built upon players who have come through the ranks at recently resurgent Slavia Prague.

Of course, former Slavia pair Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek - now starring in the Premier League with West Ham United - have been at the heart of the Czech revival, which saw them beat England in qualifying and win their Nations League group last year. Additionally, Hammers transfer target Alex Kral (currently at Spartak Moscow) has impressed since leaving the national champions.

Head coach Silhavy - a former Slavia defender (and manager) who holds the Czech record for top-flight appearances - must share some of the credit too, having taken charge after his nation's failure to reach the 2018 World Cup and subsequently guided them on to greater things.

Therefore, the Czechs may pose a significant threat to Italy's long unbeaten record on Friday, with a good showing in Bologna potentially confirming their status as contenders for a place in the knockout stages this summer.

Italy International Friendlies form:
  • W

Italy form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • W

Czech Republic form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L



Team News

Matteo Politano celebrates scoring for Italy with teammate Stefano Sensi on November 20, 2018© Reuters

Having fielded an unfamiliar team in the destruction of San Marino, Italy coach Roberto Mancini is likely to revert to a more recognisable XI on Friday.

Midfielder Stefano Sensi has been ruled out of the Euros after suffering a muscle injury during training, however, and has been replaced by Atalanta's Matteo Pessina, who may feature from the bench.

Meanwhile, Lazio centre-back Francesco Acerbi has been out with sprained ligaments and is a major doubt for La Nazionale's final warm-up. Marco Verratti is another injury concern, still needing to overcome a troublesome knee issue, and is unlikely to play.

Surprising many by cutting both Moise Kean and Matteo Politano from his squad, but bringing in diminutive Sassuolo striker Giacomo Raspadori - included after the Azzurrini exited the Under-21 Euros earlier this week - Mancini may now give the in-form forward his senior international debut from the bench.

Both midfield lynchpin Jorginho and regular left-back Emerson Palmieri are now available after being involved in the Champions League final last weekend, with the latter more favoured to start, as the former is offered some rest ahead of the coming challenges.

The visitors, meanwhile, are set to field former Serie A striker Patrik Schick in attack despite his sending off in the loss to Wales last time out. Having been the Czechs' top scorer in qualifying, the Bayer Leverkusen forward flattered to deceive while at Sampdoria and Roma, so may have a point to prove.

Inspirational captain Vladimir Darida is expected to start in the engine room, ahead of his third consecutive European Championship finals appearance later this month.

Only Slavia Prague midfielder Lukas Provod - who netted in the draw against Belgium - is a major absence for Jaroslav Silhavy's side; missing out with a knee injury. Centre-back Ondrej Kudela is banned, as he serves a 10-match suspension for racial abuse of an opponent.

Italy possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bastoni, Bonucci, Palmieri; Cristante, Locatelli, Barella; Chiesa, Belotti, Insigne

Czech Republic possible starting lineup:
Vaclik; Coufal, Zima, Celustka, Boril; Soucek, Holes; Jankto, Darida, Hlozek; Schick


SM words green background

We say: Italy 1-1 Czech Republic

As squad places have been assured, Italy's motivation may be a little lower than a Czech side yet to get their post-season preparation underway out on the pitch.

Many talented faces could feature, but a game likely to be disrupted by numerous substitutions is set to peter out into a score draw - keeping the Azzurri's unbeaten streak intact ahead of the Euros, while further boosting the Czechs' growing confidence.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data


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How you voted: Italy vs Czech Republic

Italy
72.7%
Draw
23.4%
Czech Republic
3.9%
77
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West Ham United's Angelo Ogbonna pictured on January 1, 2021
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