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Italy vs England: Who to watch? Stars and best players on each team

Italy and England face each other again in San Siro with Gareth Southgate’s side on the verge of relegation from the top tier as Italy look to build on youth.

Italy vs England: players to watch
Eddie Keogh - The FAGetty

Italy and England go head-to-head once again in Milan in the UEFA Nations League with the two European Championship finalists in different states of flux following the showpiece game at the postponed finals last summer, in which the Azzurri once again ensured that it did not go “home” as the host nation were beaten on penalties. Since that game at Wembley, both countries have been suffering a dip in form and England are in very real danger of relegation to the Nations League B. Gareth Southgate’s side have been beaten twice by surprise package Hungary and have managed two draws against Germany and Italy while scoring just once in four games. For Southgate, the problem seems to be his reliance on a fixed group of players with little structural flexibility in his team selections. Italy are third in Group A3, a point adrift of Germany and still in with a chance of qualifying for the finals.

Roberto Mancini has to be considered as being on thin ice despite leading Italy to European Championship glory, only to fail to qualify for the World Cup after defeat to North Macedonia. Mancini’s run of 37 games without defeat remains a record in international football, but should Italy not reach the Nations League finals the federation may decide it is time for a reboot. Unlike his counterpart, Mancini has been attempting to bring through younger players to replace a raft of recently retired veterans and that so far has been a mitigating factor in his defence.

Here, we take a look at three players from each team to watch out for in tonight’s game.


Alessandro Bastoni

The 23-year-old Bastoni has established himself in the centre of Inter’s defence and now faces the onerous task of doing so for Italy. A left-footer, he cam also fill in at left back and his versatility has made him a contender to fill the void left by the recent retirement of stalwart Giorgio Chiellini, with Leonardo Bonucci surely not far behind his erstwhile partner.

Giacomo Raspadori

If recent Italy teams have been characterized by a lack of anything, it is a genuine striker of lethal potential. Gone are the days of Alessandro del Piero, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Gianluca Vialli… Ciro Immobile has 15 goals in 55 caps and Andrea Belotti 12 in 44, but there is a vacancy and Raspadori is a candidate to fill it. Three in 13 is hardly prolific either, but the 22-year-old is a Mancini favourite.

Sandro Tonali

Another young player looking to assert himself in the national team, Tonali was the fulcrum of Milan’s title-winning side last season and despite only being 22 is set to be the future of Italy’s midfield from a deep-lying role alongside Nicolò Barella.

* Tonali has been announced as a late withdrawal and will not feature tonight

Gareth Southgate looks on during a training session at St George's Park on September 22, 2022 in Burton upon Trent, England.
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Gareth Southgate looks on during a training session at St George's Park on September 22, 2022 in Burton upon Trent, England. Gareth CopleyGetty


Conor Coady

A late bloomer, Coady is currently at Everton on loan from Wolves, where he made 317 appearances over seven season. The 29-year-old received his first senior call-up in 2020, seven years after hislast appearance for the under-20s, and given the form of Harry Maguire and John Stones’ injury record, he has a real chance of making one of the central defensive positions his own.

Jude Bellingham

Bellingham moved to Borussia Dortmund for a fee of around €25m in 2020 and has been touted with another transfer for around four times that amount to Manchester United or Real Madrid. The 19-year-old has never been prolific, as 13 goals in 100 games at Dortmund suggests, but his creativity is something that has been sorely lacking in Southgate’s midfield and a game against arch-defenders Italy is a good chance to show what he can do on the international stage.

Ivan Toney

A debut cap for Toney seems likely against Italy, even if it is from the bench, and the Brentford striker has certainly earned his chance. Toney spent years slogging around the lower divisions after failing to make the grade at Newcastle before finding a home at Brentford, who he fired to the Premier League with 31 goals in 2020-21 before playing a huge part in keeping the Bees up last season with a perfectly respectable 12 in his debut top-flight season. A hat-trick against Leeds at the beginning of the month, his second in the Premier League, was enough for Southgate to pick up the phone.

Italy-England: recent meetings

June 2022: England 0-0 Italy (Nations League)

July 2021: England 1-1 Italy (Italy win 3-2 on pens. Euro 2020 final)

March 2018: England 1-1 Italy (Friendly game)

March 2015: Italy 1-1 England (Friendly game)

June 2014: England 1-2 Italy (2014 World Cup)


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