UEFA Euro U21 Championship Qualifier Preview: Italy -v- Republic of Ireland

Tue, Oct 13 2020

Lee O'Connor of Republic of Ireland in action against Riccardo Sottil of Italy. Credit: Michael P Ryan (ETPhotos)

ITALY U21

Italy are fighting to stay in contention for automatic qualification for the European Under-21 Championships as they host Ireland in Pisa (kick-off 4pm Irish time).

The Italians have been forced to stand down the majority of their under-21 squad due to a Covid-19 outbreak and will instead field their under-20 squad.

Saturday’s game in hand away to Iceland was postponed after a Covid-19 diagnosis in the squad that travelled and there are question marks over when it will be rescheduled.

Only Patrick Cutrone, Samuele Ricci, Riccardo Sottil and Sandro Tonali have been retained from the under-21s after previously recovering from the virus.

Under-20 manager Alberto Bollini will take charge of the Azzurri on Tuesday knowing defeat will likely end their hopes of topping the group.

“We are very sorry. We have traveled every possible path in a very complex situation,” said under-21 manager Paolo Nicolato.

“I am proud of my staff and my players, their behaviour and their sense of responsibility gratify me much more than a victory ".

“The particular situation does not find us unprepared,” added the coordinator of Italy’s national youth teams, Maurizio Viscidi.

“Thanks to the synergy between Nicolato and Bollini, the players who will go on the pitch still have important qualities, even if at the moment they lack experience and cohesion.”

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND U21

The Republic of Ireland could take a major step towards qualification for the European Under-21 Championships with a positive result in Pisa.

Jim Crawford’s side sit top of Group 1, three points clear of Italy with a game more played, and a win would put them in a commanding position.

“We are looking forward to the game. We know just how important this game in terms of the Group but also in terms of our chances of qualifying for the finals tournament.

“We have kept an eye on what has been going on and we will be as prepared as we can be for the game.

“Our staff has been working hard to provide us with as much information as possible as we can get on the Italian team.

“Everyone with us is fit and available. Including the staff, we had 34 tests done and 34 came back negative, so there is a lot of credit to the players for following the protocols.

“This game is a great opportunity for us and we have been working hard in training all week.

“We have some really good players and we want to continue on the good form that we have showed already in this qualifying campaign.”

Crawford will be without the injured Neil Farrugia, while Jason Knight and Dara O’Shea were late call-ups to the senior squad to face Finland.

Referee: Krzysztof Jakubik (Poland)

MATCH STATS

The sides met in October of 2019 in Tallaght and played out a 0-0 draw, in which Ireland’s Troy Parrott and Italy’s Moise Kean were sent off following a second-half clash.

PREDICTION

Italy U21 1 – 1 Republic of Ireland U21

Italy U21

Injured: Too many to list.

Doubtful: None.

Suspended: None.

Republic of Ireland U21

Injured: Neil Farrugia.

Doubtful: None.

Suspended: None.

Unavailable: Jason Knight, Dara O’Shea.