19:45 BST, Monday 4th June, Juventus Stadium (Turin, Italy)
The Netherlands failed to qualify for a second successive major international tournament and now have former Everton manager Ronald Koeman in charge of their ranks.
Gian Piero Ventura was relieved of his duties following Italy missing out on a spot in Russia for the World Cup, with 53-year-old former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini being appointed on a two-year deal just over two weeks ago.
On Thursday the Dutch drew 1-1 with Slovakia with Quincy Promes netting for them in a game they dominated but lacked a cutting edge.
Italy were defeated by France on Friday by a score of 3-1. Leonardo Bonucci netted for Mancini’s men and they were unlucky to lose so heavily as they matched France very well on the night.
Both sides may look to bring through new players in the run-up to the qualification for the European Championships, which begins later this year. There is also the new European divisional competition to think about, which will replace continental international friendlies.
Mario Balotelli returned to the Italy lineup for the first time since 2014 against France as Mancini brought him out of the cold, but it is likely that Mancini may go with Insigne against the Dutch.
This side is technically superb, but it has a lot to prove. Gianluigi Donnarumma will certainly look to nail down the number one spot following the retirement of the legendary Buffon, who is now expected to sign a two-year deal with PSG after leaving Juventus.
Quincy Promes netted on Thursday night to rescue a late draw for Koeman’s men, as regulars Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum were both unused substitutes. Daley Blind and Tottenham target Mathias de Ligt both started for the visitors.
Key Battle: Ciro Immobile (Italy) vs Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)
With one of Europe’s best strikers possibly facing off against a centre back who led Liverpool to a Champions League final this season, the match could easily be decided by whoever wins this battle.
Immobile had a phenomenal season in Serie A, he netted thirty-seven times in just forty-two appearances, with four of those appearances (and two goals) coming from the bench. Add to that an impressive nine assists and an average of 1.2 key passes per game and the Italian provides a handful for any team. The Lazio star also provides an aerial threat, furthering the problems he can cause defences he faces off against.
Liverpool player van Dijk has, however, been very impressive for his new side since joining for £75 million in January. With an average of 1.1 tackles per game in fourteen Premier League appearances, it will also be difficult for Immobile to get the better of the Dutchman. His average of 1.3 interceptions per game for the Reds may provide a counter to Immobile’s excellent passing ability.
An international friendly just before the World Cup in which neither of the two sides have qualified for the tournament. Both have relatively new managers and will surely be looking to set out their stalls ahead of a qualifying campaign for the 2020 European Championships.
The question in the players’ heads may be the same – if they do perform well it may be put down to a lack of caring by the opposition, whilst a poor performance may not be noted anywhere near as much by a manager as if it were a competitive fixture.
Some players might already be in holiday mode having no competitive internationals after the ending of the domestic season, understandably so.
With this fixture Roberto Mancini’s first in charge of Italy, he might make some tactical changes. Mancini may want to play a more direct game with a high pressing style and a high defensive line, for example.
Given his time in charge of City, most would expect to see an attacking brand of football with a mixed press and generally shorter passing. With the players he has at his disposal he could opt for a different tactical system?
Ciro Immobile is a vastly different striker to the likes of Sergio Aguero and Balotelli, for example. Balotelli is a player that the manager could utilise again though, with the controversial striker enjoying some of his best football under the then-City boss.
Ronald Koeman is still making tweaks to his Dutch side too. Generally, he has played three (or five) at the back, with two central midfielders and an unorthodox striker at times with winger Quincy Promes sometimes starting as the centre forward. Bas Dost has also been playing in some games, with his aerial ability providing a polar opposite threat to that of Spartak Moscow’s Promes.
Prediction: Italy 3-1 Netherlands
Roberto Mancini’s second game in charge is easier than his first, but the Netherlands will still prove to be a difficult opponent. The Dutch have struggled in recent internationals against England and even on Thursday night against Slovakia, where they slumbered to a 1-1 draw.
Several Italian players may feel insecure about their places in the side after a failed World Cup qualification campaign and the introduction of a new manager. However, the team could use these friendlies as a way of staking their claim in the squad and a strong performance against the Netherlands could help secure their future spots in the national side.
Ronald Koeman, on the other hand, will be desperate for a positive result as his side have struggled desperately over the last few years. He needs to usher a new era for the Dutch, and a win against Italy could be the perfect way to start it.
Can Italy ease past the Netherlands? Let us know below.
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