Italy and Poland to lose ground
With two games remaining in the UEFA Nations League, Pool A Group 1 currently just has a single point separating the top three sides - Poland, Italy, and the Netherlands. The first two meet at the Mapei Stadium in the town of Reggio Emilia on Sunday evening, with only an unlikely combination of results preventing a final-day decider next week. Although Gli Azzurri are unbeaten at home in four years, they are without a whole host of names for the clash. This makes the balance very fine indeed. Read our preview here:
Head coach Roberto Mancini will be absent from the match, as he is recovering from COVID-19. His assistants will have to deal with both that and a long list of playing absentees, especially in defence. They are particularly hit at full-back, as Danilo D'Ambrosio is serving a ban. In his place will be PSG flier Alessandro Florenzi, who has a propensity to hit the ball long when in the first third. Andrea Belotti in the front three is his most likely target, but the experienced Kamil Glik will relish that aerial duel. Elsewhere, the engine room will have a defensive feel to it, but Mancini will be keenly aware that they need to take the game to their opponents, trailing Poland by a point. Only a win will do, and Lorenzo Insigne is the man who could fulfil that desire, cutting in from the left where their adversaries are arguably at their weakest.
Gilk and collect
The aforementioned Glik is supreme in both boxes, and will give Italy all sorts of headaches from attacking set pieces. In the middle of the pitch, the tactical flexibility they possess could really frustrate Mancini's charges. Even in the trio behind the evergreen superstar and captain Robert Lewandowski, they will contribute defensively without the ball - 21 year-old Sebastian Szymański will need to drop back and help out teammate Tomasz Kedziora on their flank if and when the hosts crank up the pressure. Most pertinently of course, Lewandowski is outscoring his total number of appearances across all competitions for club and country in 2020/2021. Above anyone else, he has the power to score from a half-chance, as he has proven time and again for Orły in qualification rounds.
(Not) Poles apart
With new lockdown measures recently reintroduced in much of Europe, it is arguably a leveller for many slight underdogs. Poland currently top the group on merit, but even with Italy in a weakened state, they'll need to be at their very best to end the hosts' hopes of progressing to the final four of the competition. 888sport are offering juicy odds of 3.60 for the stalemate, and with Netherlands surely beating a depleted Bosnia & Herzegovina in the other tie, it will be costly for both.