Two of thee favourites to win Euro 2020 lock horns on Friday, as Belgium take on Italy at the quarter-final stage of the competition.
Belgium secured their spot in the last eight by following a 100% record in Group B with a 1-0 victory over reigning champions Portugal, courtesy of Thorgan Hazard’s beautiful long-range strike in the first half.
Italy also maintained a 100% record during their group stage, although needed extra time to overcome Austria in the round of 16. Federico Chiesa and Matteo Pessina strikes saw Roberto Mancini’s men come out 2-1 winners over a spirited and resilient Austria side to send the Azzurri through to this mammoth quarter-final clash.
Here’s 90min’s preview of the game.
When is kick off? Friday 2 July – 20:00 (BST)
Where is the match being played? Allianz Arena, Munich
What TV Channel is it on? BBC One (UK), fuboTV/ESPN (US)
Who’s the referee? TBC
Roberto Martinez is still waiting to hear on the fitness of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, who were both forced off the field with injury during their victory over Portugal. Neither are expected to be fully fit but, if they can start, they certainly will.
Thorgan Hazard should also continue in the starting XI after a wonderful performance against Portugal, while record goascorer Romelu Lukaku will lead the line.
Girogio Chiellini has revealed that his injury is not serious but it’s still unclear whether the Italy captain will be able to start against Belgium, while Alessandro Florenzi is another doubt for Mancini.
The Italy boss recycled his whole forward line for the tie with Austria and could rotate once more, bringing in Chiesa to start after his brilliant extra-time showing to inspire Italy to victory.
Pessina is also pushing for a starting place, after his goal put Italy 2-0 up in extra time of their round of 16 clash, potentially replacing Nicolo Barella.
Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, T. Hazard; De Bruyne, Lukaku, E. Hazard.
Italy: Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Acerbi, Bonucci, Spinnazola; Verratti, Jorginho, Pessina; Berardi, Immobile, Chiesa.
This one is very tough to predict. Both sides come into the tie in staggering form; Belgium are unbeaten in 12, winning ten of those while Italy haven’t lost since September 2018 and have been victorious in their previous 12.
Belgium showed against Portugal that they are finally more than capable of seeing out results and competing when matches get gritty – which is a quality that seems to have evaded the golden generation in recent major tournaments.
Italy weren’t seriously considered contenders before a ball was kicked but now seem impossible to beat, combining their defensive stability and wonderful attacking talent now make them one of the favourites to win the whole thing. The two teams are very well matched.
It should be a tight encounter and could be decided by a moment or two of serious magic – in which case Martinez will be praying to have De Bruyne and Hazard available.
Prediction: Belgium 1-0 Italy