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In Saturday’s Euro 2024 Qualifying clash, Italy prepare to host already-eliminated Malta at the Stadio San Nicola in Bari on Saturday. The Azzurri are seeking back-to-back victories, aiming to close the gap to Group C leaders, England, to a mere three points.
|Italy vs Malta|
Italy come into this match on the back of a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Ukraine in their most recent Euro 2024 qualifying encounter. Under the guidance of Scudetto-winning coach Luciano Spalletti, Italy have steadily improved. After an initial stumble with a 2-1 loss to Gareth Southgate’s England, Italy hae reclaimed their form, securing seven points from their last nine available in Group C. Although their September performances did not exhibit dominance, with a forgettable 1-1 draw against North Macedonia followed by a narrow 2-1 triumph against Ukraine, they currently sit in the second place in this tightly-packed group.
Notably, Italy, Ukraine, and North Macedonia all have seven points, with England leading the way with an impressive 13 points. Italy hold a unique advantage due to their recent Nations League success, where they bested the Netherlands in the third-placed playoff, giving them a game in hand over their competitors.
March’s home loss to England is Italy’s sole defeat in their last 44 European Championship qualifying matches. Furthermore, Italy have not failed to score at this stage since a goalless draw with Northern Ireland in 2010. These statistics offer little optimism for Malta.
On the other hand, Malta’s Group C campaign has been a humbling experience. They are already eliminated from the competition, and their agonizing wait for a first major tournament appearance continues. North Macedonia sealed their fate on matchday five, consigning them to the bottom of Group C with zero points and only one goal scored.
Although Malta managed two 1-0 friendly wins over Luxembourg and Gibraltar this year, they have struggled offensively. They are one of only two teams in the UEFA groups to have scored fewer goals than any other team. Their record against Italy is equally disheartening, with no wins in their previous 18 meetings, and the last time they scored against Italy was in 1993.
Both teams face challenges on the injury front. Italy’s Gianluca Scamacca, Federico Chiesa, Mattia Zaccagni, and Ciro Immobile are unavailable due to injuries. With a limited offensive arsenal, Moise Kean, Giacomo Raspadori, and Domenico Berardi are expected to lead the attack, while Davide Frattesi’s strong performance against Ukraine should secure his place in the midfield.
Malta also hae injury concerns, with Teddy Teuma and Jodi Jones unavailable. Captain Steve Borg, who was booked for the third time in Group C, will be suspended for the match, leaving Jean Borg or Kurt Shaw to fill in for the skipper.
Italy: Donnarumma; Darmian, Mancini, Bastoni, Dimarco; Barella, Locatelli, Frattesi; Berardi, Raspadori, Kean
Malta: Bonello; J. Borg, Muscat, Pepe; Mbong, Kristensen, Guillaumier, Camenzuli; Yankam, Degabriele; Nwoko
In this clash, Italy are expected to dominate. Even with an eye on the upcoming match against England and a weakened attack due to Immobile’s absence, Italy’s class should shine through. Malta’s inability to score and their injury concerns, particularly the absence of Teddy Teuma, does not bode well for their chances. We predict a comfortable 4-0 victory for Italy at the Stadio San Nicola, sending out a clear message to England ahead of their highly-anticipated battle.
Prediction: Italy 4-0 Malta