In both nation’s second International friendly of 2018, Gareth Southgate’s England welcome Luigi Di Biagio’s Italy to London to renew a classic rivalry between two proud footballing countries, an eagerly-awaited one too over the last few months.
The Three Limos head into the friendly off the back of beating the Netherlands for the first time in 22 years away in Amsterdam on Friday evening, while the Azzurri were on the losing side against Argentina on the same evening, the hosts are the slim favourites for this one.
The exciting encounter is scheduled to take place tonight (Tuesday 27 March 2018), with a kick-off time of 7:45 PM GMT and live television coverage in the United Kingdom being provided by ITV on ITV 1 and ITV 1 HD.
There will also be live radio commentary available to listen to in the UK courtesy of BBC Radio 5 Live and TalkSport, you can also stay with us here on ByFarTheGreatestTeam for all the build-up and reaction today and tomorrow, the clash will be played on the same evening England’s U21s take on Ukraine at Bramall Lane.
The visit of the Italians will be hosted by England’s iconic national stadium of Wembley, which was originally opened in 1923, and rebuilt in the early noughties to bring the all-seater capacity up to a staggering 90,000.
Famous for its arches and imposing design, this season, Wembley is hosting Premier League football for the first time as the home of Tottenham Hotspur for a campaign while their new White Hart Lane Stadium is undergoing a similar rebuilding process.
Aside from English International and domestic football, the New Wembley has housed a UEFA Champions League final as well as being due to host the semi-finals and finals of the 2020 UEFA European Championships held across Europe, not to forget, rugby, American football and countless world-class concerts.
Tonight will be the first time that Azzurri have been visitors to the stadium since it was reopened in 2007, their last trip to the Old Wembley, three years before it closed, in February 1997 saw the Italians leave with a World Cup qualifying win, the score that day was 0-1 and the scorer a certain Gianfranco Zola.
Home manager Southgate went with some new blood when picking his penultimate squad before the summer’s World Cup, giving goalkeeper Nick Pope and centre-backs Alfie Mawson and James Tarkowski first senior calls for two matches, this clash and the Holland triumph.
However, he has been plagued by injury concerns with Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere and Liverpool’s Joe Gomez having to pull out of the squad, Jordan Henderson was announced as captain in Harry Kane’s absence last week, the Football Association have already confirmed that Jack Butland will replace Jordan Pickford in goal.
Meanwhile, visiting caretaker boss Di Baggio first squad doesn’t appear to be nursing any extra injury worries after the Friday night Etihad Stadium defeat to the Argentinians, though there are expected to be few changes from that starting Xl.
Deputy to 176-cap man Gigi Buffon, Gianluigi Donnarumma may get some experience while those who didn’t feature so much in Manchester, the likes of Chelsea’s Davide Zappacosta and Giacomo Bonaventura, not to mention defender Angelo Ogbonna who has already scored at Wembley this season for domestic club West Ham United could all start.
The national teams of England and Italy have met 26 times on the International stage in a fixture that has been being played since all the way back in 1933 when the first meeting ended in a 1-1 draw.
The overall record swings narrowly in the favour of tonight’s visitors who have 11 victories over the English to their name, while they have only lost eight times to them over the years and the points and the spoils have been shared on seven occasions.
In more recent times, the nations have faced off with each other fairly frequently at major tournaments, being drawn together at two of the last three and the Azzurri progressing each of those times, triumphing in four of the last six.
It will be three years on Saturday since the last encounter before tonight and that came in the form of a close-fought 1-1 draw at the Juventus Stadium in which Graziano Pelle put the home side ahead and Andros Townsend equalised late on for the away side.
The English national team was founded in 1870 and has one of the richest histories in the International game, one of the most colourful too as there had rarely been a dull moment in the existence of the Three Lions.
Their finest hour surely arrived in 1966, when famous captain Bobby Moore lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy, the English winning the World Cup at Wembley under the guidance of Sir Alf Ramsey, it’s the nation’s only major honour to date.
Since then, they have also been nearly-men on several occasions, failing to make it to the odd tournament and often bowing out at the first knockout stage, though in the summer, an improvement would be making it out of the group, something they failed to do at Brazil 2014.
Having risen as high as 3 in 2012, England’s FIFA World Raking is currently a respectful 16, five above their Friday night opponents, the main objective for them going forward will be stability, current boss Southgate is their third in under two years.
Currently ranked 21st in the world by FIFA, the Italian national team came together in the early 20th century and since then has been one of the most successful forces in International football, breaking record after record and picking up vast amounts of major honours and accolades.
Nicknamed Azzurri (Blues), they have picked up a remarkable four FIFA World Cups across their history becoming the first team to win the tournament back-to-back in 1934 and 1938 and adding one more in 1982 and just 12 years ago in 2006.
Italy have also been World Cup runners-up twice as well as European Championship runners-up twice, going one better in that tournament in 1968 as hosts and also winning Gold at the infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics in Nazi Germany.
However, they will not be at this summer’s World Cup Finals in Russia for the first time in 60 years having failed to qualify under the guidance of Gian Piero Ventura, from whom Di Biagio took over on a temporary basis, the nation will be keen to avoid being billed as fallen giants and get out of the rut, learning from the failures of teams like the Netherlands.
Who Is Officiating?
Experienced German FIFA Referee Deniz Aytekin will be the man in the middle this evening with Eduard Beitinger and Rafael Foltyn assisting him and fellow experienced Referee Marco Fritz taking up the role of Fourth Official, VAR, or Video Assistant Referee, will be used with Daniel Siebert stepping in, Benjamin Brand completes the all-German team as Assistant Video Assistant Referee.
So, now that the Wembley scene has been well and truly set for an exciting evening of International friendly action, can the Three Lions roar to consecutive victories to start their World Cup year?
Or, will the Azzurri win for their former teammate Davide Astori who will be honoured having sadly passed away earlier in the month? Think you know? Find us on Twitter @ByFarBlog to Tweet us your early score predictions and join the pre-match discussion.