Italy: Roberto Mancini is trying to start a new cycle after the failure of not qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Apart of the Nations League, the coach needs to find a new atmosphere around the team. All the excitement that drove this team to the win at the Euros in 2021 seems to be vanished only one year after. Ciro Immobile is back in the team, while Marco Verratti and Lorenzo Pellegrini won’t be part of these matches due to injuries. England: Gareth Southgate’s side didn’t start well the UEFA Nations League group and have only two points after four games, thanks to the draws against Italy and Germany, while they lost both matches against Hungary (4-0 and 1-0). What is worrying more right now for Southgate is the lack of goals scored and also the defense. In four matches, England conceded six goals and scored only one.
Unlike their upcoming hosts, England do have a World Cup to prepare for as they warm up for clashes with Iran, Wales and the USA in Group B, but optimism will not be at its highest point in November if the Three Lions are to exit the Nations League with a whimper. England and Italy butted heads in front of a youthful Molineux crowd back in June, with only children and their guardians permitted to attend following the disgraceful scenes of crowd disorder at Euro 2020, but the two continental giants could only play out a drab goalless stalemate. Italy have already lost a trio of experienced players to injury for September’s games, as Lorenzo Pellegrini and Matteo Politano have been forced to withdraw alongside Marco Verratti. Davide Frattesi and Manolo Gabbiadini have been called up as replacements.
Mancini controversially decided against calling up Davide Calabria and Nicolo Zaniolo for September’s fixtures, while Leeds United’s Wilfried Gnonto and West Ham United’s Gianluca Scamacca have both made the cut. A distinct lack of options out wide should benefit Gnonto’s chances of starting, especially after the 18-year-old scored against Germany last time out, but Scamacca will likely take a back seat as Ciro Immobile seeks his first international goal in 15 months. As for England, Southgate’s ever-criticised squad selection saw a maiden call-up for Brentford striker Ivan Toney, but 50-goal captain Harry Kane ought to lead the line from the off as he closes in on Wayne Rooney’s record of 53 strikes for the Three Lions.
Given the close proximity of the World Cup, it’s hard to imagine Southgate tinkering too much. Kalvin Phillips is injured, meaning there’s a strong chance of seeing Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham paired together in midfield, although there could well be starts for Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw despite their lack of action at club level. Nick Pope will likely deputise for the absent Jordan Pickford in goal, while Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling are certain starters. John Stones is suspended, meaning Eric Dier could come into the starting lineup with his England exile finally over. For the Italians, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Matteo Politano have pulled out of the squad, meaning Roberto Mancini will likely have to turn to some less established names, while AC Milan’s Sandro Tonali is another doubt. This is one is likely to be cagey. England cannot risk getting played off the park in what has been a difficult atmosphere for them over the years.