A real contrast in styles, Belgium against Italy could be the pick of the quarter-finals at Euro 2020.
However, with differing injury news on both sides, the Azzurri may just make their mark in Munich.
Key Absentees Likely to Hurt Belgium
The phrase ‘Golden Generation’ has been used to describe the current group of Belgian players and this may prove to be their last shot at glory.
Semi-finalists at the 2018 World Cup, Roberto Martinez’s men have undoubtedly continued to progress and showed spirit perhaps absent in previous tournaments as they battled to an impressive 1-0 last-16 victory against holders Portugal.
However, both Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard failed to see out the game against the Selecao in Seville and Martinez was extremely coy on whether either would be fit for Friday.
Hazard has a muscle injury, while De Bruyne’s left ankle was hurt in a tackle by Palhinha, and they may both miss out on the quarter-final clash.
In contrast, Italy are set to be boosted by the return of captain and defensive rock Giorgio Chiellini, who will be reunited with Juventus colleague Leonardo Bonucci in the heart of his country’s rearguard.
With that experience, and Belgium’s injury woes, the Azzurri look a handy price at
7/5 to win in 90 minutes.
Belgium Could End Italy Record
That said, the presence of Romelu Lukaku means the Italians will still have plenty to worry about and could see their 12-game run without conceding ended in Bavaria.
Lukaku, who has three goals to his name at the Euros and is
7/4 in the anytime market, will be relishing his duel with Chiellini and Bonucci.
Although they conceded in extra-time, Italy’s clean sheet in 90 minutes took their current run without conceding in regular play to an incredible 12 games. Meanwhile, that result against Das Team also set a new Azzurri record of 31 matches unbeaten.
Despite the absence of De Bruyne and Hazard, Lukaku’s threat alone is worth a goal for De Rode Duivels and there could be value in backing Roberto Mancini’s men to win, but their clean sheet record to be ended, with the Italy victory and both teams to score at
Count On Chiesa
That nervous victory over Austria furthered the opinion that Italy had not been tested during the group stages and that scare may make Mancini’s men battle-hardened.
The man who made the difference last Saturday was Federico Chiesa. The Juventus winger was unlucky not to be given a start ahead of Domenico Berardi on the right but proved his point by breaking the deadlock.
Being a natural right-footer, he may give his country a tactical advantage as the natural width he’d provide could stretch Belgium’s back three, simultaneously blunting Thorgan Hazard’s threat from wing-back.
Chiesa made family and competition history by scoring at the European Championships last weekend, emulating his dad Enrico who netted against the Czech Republic in 1996, making them the first father and son to have done so.
The 23-year-old is
9/2 in the anytime market and whether he starts or comes off the bench, is always a player who can make a difference.
*All odds correct at time of writing