Belgium and Italy face-off each other in a high profile encounter of Euro Cup Group E on Monday evening at the Stade de Lyon.
Belgium are making their fifth European Championship appearance, but haven’t made it to the final round since they co-hosted the tournament with the Netherlands in calendar year 2000. Their best run in the tournament was during the 1980 edition in Italy, where they losing to West Germany 2-1 in the finals.
Italy lost to Spain 4-0 in the 2012 finals, their best run since losing the finals in 2000. They had crowned champions only once, in 1968. They are making their ninth appearance in the tournament and failed to make through the group stages only twice – 1996 and 2004.
The FIFA ranked 1 team Belgium are in good form as they lost just once in their last 9 games, with 7 wins and a draw. Their only defeat during the period was a 2-1 loss to Portugal in a friendly on March 2016. They have also managed to score in each of their last 9 games, but kept a clean sheet only once.
Italy were unbeaten in the 10 matches of the qualifying group, winning 7 and drawing 3. Since then, they went on a 4 match win-less run with 2 draws and 2 losses, but bounced back with consecutive wins from the last two friendlies against Scotland and Finland. They had scored at least a goal in each of their 9 matches, but scored more than 1 in just one match in the last 4.
Belgium: Team News
Thomas Vermaelen is a doubt for Belgium in their opening Group E encounter against Italy. Jason Denayer could partner Jan Vertonghen at centre-back, with Jordan Lukaku and Toby Alderweireld on either flanks.
Marc Wilmots is expected to start with a 4-3-3 formation with Marouane Fellaini starting in midfield alongside Axel Witsel and Radja Nainggolan.
Belgium: Predicted Line-up (4-3-3)
Courtois – J.Lukaku, Vertonghen, Denayer, Alderweireld – Witsel, Nainggolan, Fellaini – Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku.
Italy: Team News
Graziano Pelle could lead the attack with Eder or Simone Zaza supporting him. Thiago Motta could be deployed in a deep midfield role to partner Daniele De Rossi to deal with the attacking threat of Belgium.
Italy Predicted Line-up (3-5-2)
Buffon –Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini – Darmian Candreva, Motta, De Rossi, Florenzi, Darmian– Eder, Pelle.
Belgium vs Italy: Head-to-Head Stats
Italy hold a formidable head-to-head record against Belgium, with 13 wins, 4 draws and 4 loses from 21 meetings between them.
Belgium’s record against Italy in competitive matches is 1 win, 2 draws and 2 losses. The latest of the meeting was in the group stage of the Euro 2000 co-hosted by Belgium, which end in a 2-0 win for Italy.
Italy lost 3-1 to Belgium in their most recent meeting, on November 2015 at the Stade Roi Baudouin in Brussels.
Belgium vs Italy: Prediction
The form and momentum is with this young and talented Belgian side and they must kick start their campaign in style to progress from this tricky group. With the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel and Romelu Lukaku at their side, the squad has every potential to mount a serious challenge to the tournament favourites. But the question remains if this golden generation of Belgium can finally deliver it on a football field.
The current Italy squad is nothing like what it used to be in previous tournaments and their major issues lie in the scoring department. There is a meagre 11 goals between the five strikers Pelle, Insigne, Zaza, Eder and Immobile from a combined 56 appearances. If the midfield fail to contribute, they will be set for a similar fate as in 2014 World Cup.
Judging by form Belgium looks heavy favourites to clinch a victory in this Group E encounter. Italy, despite their recent downfalls must not be underestimated, they may not have the players to score goals, but their defense will prove hard for Belgium to break down.
Exact Score Prediction: Belgium 1-1 Italy (odds 4.75).
- Double Chance – Belgium/Draw (odds @ 1.32)
- Under 2.5 goals (odds 1.49)
- Both Teams to Score (odds 2.04)
*Odds from Bet-at-Home at the time of composing this article.
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