Pride on the line in Rome
SUPERL EAGUE - MATCHDAY
AGONAsport previews the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between Italy and Greece in Rome.
It can’t get any worse, can it? Unfortunately, that is a phrase which has been repeated too many times since 2014 when Greece famously reached the Last 16 of the FIFA World Cup. Since that success, fans of the Ethniki Omada have been put through the mill with embarrassing losses to Luxembourg, Estonia and the Faroe Islands alongside the failure to qualify for another major tournament.
Unfortunately, Euro 2020 will mark the third consecutive competition which Greece haven’t qualified for. With six rounds in the books, Greece occupy fifth place of Group J, trailing second-placed Finland by seven points. The Ethniki must beat Italy in Rome to maintain any realistic hope of somehow turning the situation around and qualifying for Euro 2020.
Two disappointing results against Finland (0-2) and Liechtenstein (1-1) marked the start of John van ‘t Schip’s tenure at the helm after he replaced the bumbling Angelos Anastasiadis. Nevertheless, the Dutchman must be given time to prove his worth, and he has named an experimental squad for the two games against Italy and Bosnia as he looks ahead to the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign. Kostas Manolas and Sokratis Papastathopoulos have been left out of the team, while the inexperienced Pantelis Hatzidiakos and Konstantinos Galanopoulos have received a chance to display their talents on the international stage.
The situation is very different for the Italians. Boasting a large six-point lead at the top of the group, Italy are sure to be present at Euro 2020 next year, and they can officially seal qualification with a win against Greece on Saturday. A draw will also see Italy progress if Bosnia do not beat Finland.
Italy have already handed Greece an emphatic defeat in this group. On June 8, the Italians ran riot at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, scoring three first-half goals through Nicolo Barella, Lorenzo Insigne and Leonardo Bonucci to claim a comfortable 3-0 triumph. Italy have won all six group games so far.
Initial reports have suggested that a minimum of 50,000 fans will attend the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
TEAM NEWS: ITALY
Roberto Mancini is predicted to play with a 4-3-3 formation on Saturday evening, with Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Insigne and Andrea Belotti the three players who will test the Greek defence. Centre-backs Leonardo Bonucci and Alessio Romagnoli will protect AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Possible line-up: Donnarumma, Spinazzola, Bonucci, Romagnoli, D’Ambrosio, Jorginho, Verratti, Bernardeschi, Chiesa, Insigne, Belotti.
TEAM NEWS: GREECE
If the latest reports are to be believed, Van ‘t Schip is favouring a 4-4-2 formation in this match, with Efthymis Koulouris and the quick Anastasios Donis leading the line. Earlier this week, AEK goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas broke a finger in training, meaning Odisseas Vlachodimos will take his place between the sticks. Petros Mantalos and Marios Vrousai will be the main attacking threat from midfield.
Dimitris Kourbelis will play either as a central defender or as a defensive midfielder.
Possible line-up: Vlachodimos, Stafylidis, Siovas, Hatzidiakos, Bakakis, Kourbelis, Bouchalakis, Mantalos, Vrousai, Koulouris, Donis.
REFEREE: SERGEI KARASEV (RUS)
Karasev, 40, will take charge of proceedings in the Italian capital. This season, the experienced Russian has been the referee for the Feyenoord - Porto UEFA Europa League match (2-0), while also overseeing seven games in the Russian Premier League.
In the 2018/2019 campaign, Karasev refereed Olympiacos’ 1-0 Europa League loss at Real Betis and AEK Larnaca’s 3-0 triumph over Trencin in the same competition. Karasev has been registered with FIFA since 2010.
Assistant referees: Igor Demeshko (RUS), Maxim Gavrilin (RUS)
Fourth official: Vitaly Meshkov (RUS)