Finland will look to test themselves better when they welcome Italy to the Ratinan Stadion for the 6th round of Euro 2020 qualifying on Sunday.
The Finns are looking to make their maiden appearance at the Euros and previous round results place them well in Group J. Markku Kanerva’s side beat Greece 1-0 with a Teemu Pukki penalty, taking them to 12 points from 5 games. This leaves them 5 points clear of Bosnia and Herzegovina and 3 points behind group leaders Italy at the halfway mark.
In case the home side fail to finish in the top 2 at the end of the qualifying campaign, they still have a chance to qualify for Euro 2020 as they are assured of a playoff spot due to winning their group in the UEFA Nations League.
The Huuhkajat have won their last 4 games in a row, beating Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Liechtenstein and Greece. However, they did lose to Italy in the opening game of the campaign and will look to fare better on home soil against the heavyweights.
Coming to Italy, it has been smooth sailing so far for Roberto Mancini’s side, winning all 5 qualifying games so far and sitting pretty on 15 points. Qualification is all but assured with Bosnia and Herzegovina 8 points behind them in 3rd place, out of the automatic qualification places.Embed from Getty Images
The Azzurri dispatched 10-man Armenia 3-1 in the previous round to maintain their perfect record and they will now face tough competition in Finland, who are coming into the game in good form.
In terms of team news, Teemu Pukki will once again be in the limelight after he carried his sublime start to the Premier League and scored the lone goal in Finland’s 1-0 win over Greece on Thursday. The 29-year old striker now has 4 goals in 5 qualifiers so far and he will be tasked with finding the back of the net for Kanerva’s side.Embed from Getty Images
The Finland gaffer will look to field the same team which took to the pitch against Greece barring any unforeseen injuries.
Meanwhile, Italy will miss defensive stalwart Giorgio Chiellini who is out with a knee injury. AC Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli stepped in for the match against Armenia and he can be expected to continue. The absence of injured Mattia De Sciglio and Lorenzo Insigne would imply Mancini will pick the same starting lineup as the previous one.
Head-To-Head and Finland vs Italy Prediction
Looking at head-to-head, Finland faced Italy 13 times so far and have lost 12 of them, drawing once. In the reverse fixture this March, Italy won 2-0 at home. In fact, in the last 6 meetings between the sides, dating back to 1994, Italy scored 11 goals and kept a clean sheet in each of them.
The last time Finland scored against their opponents was way back in 1977, a solitary goal in a 6-1 defeat. However, the Finns are in much better form leading up to the match, scoring 7 goals without reply in the previous 4 qualifiers.
While Italy failed to register a clean sheet in the last 2 games, they have scored 16 goals in 5 games so far, highlighting their attacking prowess. The Azzurri can be expected to find the back of the net once again in this one.
Thus, the head-to-head record shows Italy are clear favorites to win it while recent form gives Finland a speck of a chance in front of the home fans. Nevertheless, expect Italy to come out on top with Finland scoring for the first time in 7 games against their more illustrious opponents. We also expect an attack-fest with Over 2.5 goals.
Finland Predicted XI: Hradecky; Raitala, Toivio, Arajuuri, Uronen; Lod, Sparv, Kamara, Soiri; Tuominen, Pukki
Italy Predicted XI: Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Bernardeschi, Belotti