TACTICAL football boff Chris Bland (@blandc_1996) gives us the lowdown on Italy's latest Euro 2020 qualifying encounter with Finland on Sunday.
Finland v Italy | Sunday 8th September 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
The top two in Group J clash on Sunday at the Tampere Stadium as both Finland and Italy look to build on Friday victories. Finland beat Greece 1-0 with Teemu Pukki netting again, whilst Italy struggled to a 3-1 away win in Armenia, relying upon a controversial red card to help breakdown the Eastern European side.
Italy defeated Finland 2-0 in the group’s opening game, and since then the pair boast 100% records, and it’s unlikely to be as straightforward for the Azzurri this time round.
For Italy, there were warning signs against Armenia. They looked to press high when without the ball, leaving a large space between midfield and defence, which subsequently exposed their two centre-backs Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Barzagli.
Armenia looked to target their lack of pace, and this was coupled with the reliance Italy had on Emerson Palmieri and Andrea Florenzi to provide an attacking outlet, leaving vast space in behind the full-backs.
In the 2-0 defeat in March, Finland were able to get in behind the full-backs a number of times with Robin Lod impressing down the right, and should have found themselves on the scoresheet.
Furthermore, Finland have one of the most in-form strikers in Europe in Teemu Pukki, who currently doesn’t need a second opportunity to score. Adding to his account with a penalty on Thursday, he looks good value to score again, and given his record this season, plus Italy’s defensive vulnerabilities, 11/4 (Bet365) is worth taking.
Whilst Italy struggled to breakdown a compact Armenian side, Marco Veratti was key in eventually doing so. He is suspended for this fixture and will be a big miss to Italian midfield, particularly for his work rate and ability to lead the press going forward.
Stefano Sensi is expected to start, and has fulfilled a similar role for Inter Milan exceptionally well this season. However, these tactics did leave massive spaces on the counter for Armenia, and it led to Nicolo Barella also being booked for a cynical foul.
Expect to see Italy gamble with this high press at times, and subsequently leave their midfield and defenders exposed once again to quick breaks. Playing in the defensive midfield role and already racking up three yellows in four Premier League games, Jorginho looks the best value of the Italian midfield at 3/1 (Betfred) to be booked.