On Sunday night Italy visit Tampere with history and form on their side as the visitors look to maintain their 100% win record in Group J. In their way a bullish Finland side that have won each of their last four and know any points from this fixture would leave Bosnia-Herzegovina needing a miracle to leapfrog the Huuhkajat. Kick off is 21:45.
The Squad: Markku Kanerva has no injury concerns ahead of the game but Tim Sparv’s yellow card on Thursday means he misses out with a one-match suspension. The captain’s absence and the caliber of opponent is likely to motivate both personnel and tactical changes. It’s by no means sure that Glen Kamara could run the midfield alongside Rasmus Schüller alone and while Pyry Soiri has been effective, tracking attacking full-backs isn’t exactly his strength. Kanerva is likely to use Scüller and Kamara centrally and bring in Robin Lod from the wing to bolster the middle of the park. While it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lasse Lappalainen out wide. The back four and ‘keeper seem pretty settled in spite of tough competition and it would take an act of God to displace Teemu Pukki. Expect Kanerva’s side to deploy more of a 4-5-1, attack early and focus on the flanks. If they can block the middle of the pitch and counter with pace, the Huuhkajat could get something.
Visitors: The 3-1 score line isn’t a fair representation of how hard Italy had to work in Armenia last Thursday. A tough encounter (against 10 men for 45 minutes) needed an 80th minute own goal to ease the nerves for the group leaders. PSG’s Marco Verratti picked up a booking which means he will be suspended for this clash. Roberto Mancini is also without the injured Giorgio Chielini, Maria Di Sciglio (Juventus), Bryan Cristante (Roma) and Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli) who share 180 caps and 14 goals between them. Mancini likes to play a 4-3-3 with an intricate but narrow attacking style supported by aggressive full backs. Finland will need to close down Emerson and Alessandro Florenzi from deep and try to make sure Jorginho isn’t allowed time and space in the middle of the park. Belotti, Bernadeschi and Frederico Chiesa are likely to start up top and while not Italy’s finest are still pacy and technically good with the the ball. At the back neither Alessandro Romagnoli nor Leonardo Bonucci are particularly quick. With the right amount of patience and the right through ball, Teemu Pukki could cause the Azzuri some serious damage.
Referee: Bobby Madden (Scotland) – the Scotsman’s last match, was the Auld Firm, in which Glen Kamara’s Rangers lost 2-0. 12 red cards in his last 50 games, he doesn’t particularly like to hold up the play, but he’s not shy with his cards.
Previous: Last time out Italy won 2-0 in Udine, which was pretty comfortable for the hosts. Finland’s only ever win against Italy was a 3-2 home win, back in 1912.
P:14 W:1 D:1 L:12 GF:7 GA:34
Broadcast: Live on ViaFree, the studio starts at 21:00, Finland time