The encounter between Italy and Portugal will be a key one following Italy’s 1-0 win away to Poland last month. The result effectively ensured that the race for top spot narrowed down to these two sides. Here is a look at the Three Keys to the match.
Portugal’s form v Italy’s lack of it
Italy were facing the risk of relegation before their key win over Poland, but they now need to win at home to stand any real chance of topping the group. Their form is not the most impressive seeing that they have won only one of their last five outings. They will want to take confidence from their last fixture but it goes without saying they still don’t look like a team operating at optimum.
Portugal for their part have not fared too badly after winning all of their last three consecutive fixtures. They need a draw here in the very least if they are to maintain their position in the group and will be hoping to ride on their recent form to see them through. The Italians have a pretty good home record and their visitors will need to be at their very best to come out with a good result.
Italy’s experience v Portugal youth
Italy have trialed many formations under Roberto Mancini, and they seem to be slowly getting better. This has been made rather easy by the number of experienced members in the squad. They could be up to something when they host a relatively young Portugal side. It will help that a considerable number of the players are locally based with the exception of four players who don’t play in the Serie A.
Portugal for their part are undergoing a transition with players such as Cristiano Ronaldo being left out of the last few call-ups. They have picked up a couple of good results, but we doubt that they can withstand an improving Italian side. This will present a good chance for their coach to test the character of his young side as they try to build a team for the future.
Hosts defence v Visitors attack
Italy have the defence to keep things tight at the back, and they should be able to silence an inexperienced Portuguese side. This is the biggest test the European champions have faced since the World Cup, and there are serious doubts that they can live up to expectations. The situation is not helped by Portugal’s record away to Italy, where they have scored just five goals in their last 11 trips.
The Italians, on the other hand, are anything but prolific in front of goal. As things stand they have scored exactly one goal in five of their last six internationals. This will come as good news for Portugal who do not necessarily have the best defence. The Azzurri’s struggles in front of goal do not seem to be over thought there have been a few improvements in their attacking play.