Portugal stand on the brink of reaching the UEFA Nations League finals, but Italy can at least delay their passage through by claiming a victory in Milan when they meet in a Group 3 clash on Saturday.
A 1-0 victory over the Azzurri in September combined with a 3-2 success over Poland a month later means that Fernando Santos’ side have a perfect record and need only a point from Saturday’s fixture or a win over Poland in Guimaraes on Tuesday to progress.
Italy, meanwhile, needed a stoppage-time goal from Cristiano Biraghi to overcome the Poles and keep their qualifying hopes alive.
Anything short of a victory for Roberto Mancini’s men will see them eliminated.
|Game||Italy vs Portugal|
|Date||Saturday, November 17|
|Time||7:45pm GMT / 2:45pm ET|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game can be watched live and on-demand with fuboTV (7-day free trial) .
New users can sign up for a free seven-day trial of the live sports streaming service, which can be accessed via iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Apple TV as well as on a web browser.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|Univision Deportes||fubo TV (7-day free trial)|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game can be watched live on Sky Sports Premier League and streamed on Sky Go.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|Sky Sports Football||Sky Go|
Squads & Team News
|Goalkeepers||Sirigu, Donnarumma, Cragno|
|Defenders||Chiellini, Bonucci, De Sciglio, Florenzi, Romagnoli, Rugani, Biraghi, Palmieri|
|Midfielders||Verratti, Jorginho, Pellegrini, Gagliardini, Barella, Sensi, Tonali|
|Forwards||Immobile, Insigne, Chiesa, Berardi, Lasagna, Politano, Grifo, Pavoletti|
Roberto Mancini has a number of selection issues to juggle, with defender Danilo D’Ambrosio dropping out of the squad due to injury. There is a more severe collection of problems in attack, where Federico Bernardeschi, Simone Zaza, Patrick Cutrone and Pietro Pellegri are all absent.
Sandro Tonali – dubbed ‘the new Pirlo’ – Vincenzo Grifo and Stefano Sensi are all in the squad for the first time.
Italy starting XI: Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Biraghi; Verratti, Jorginho, Barella; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne.
|Goalkeepers||Patricio, Beto, Ramos|
|Defenders||Pepe, Fonte, Cedric, Guerreiro, Neto, Cancelo, Rui, Dias|
|Midfielders||Carvalho, Mario, A. Gomes, Pereira, Sanches, Pizzi, Fernandes, Neves|
|Forwards||Eder, B. Silva, A. Silva, Guedes, R. Silva, Bruma|
Cristiano Ronaldo has been allowed to sit this fixture out. The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has not featured since the World Cup.
Portugal are hampered by the ongoing absence of Monaco star Rony Lopes but have no major problems otherwise.
Everton midfielder Andre Gomes is seeking to play in his first Nations League match after being ruled out previously due to injury. Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro and Joao Mario are also recalled.
Portugal starting XI: Patricio; Cancelo, Fonte, Dias, Rui; Carvalho, Neves, Pizzi; B. Silva, A. Silva, Bruma
Betting & Match Odds
Italy are priced at 5/4 favourites by Bet365 . The draw is available at 23/10 while Portugal are a 13/5 shot.
It’s a case of win or bust for Roberto Mancini and his Italy side, which is in a rebuilding process after missing out on World Cup 2018 following a playoff defeat to Sweden a year ago.
That 1-0 loss on aggregate remains a scar on the nation’s footballing history and a victory over Portugal on Saturday would act as something of a balm, even if qualifying for the playoffs would remain outside of their hands.
Mancini, certainly, is hoping for a positive display after a dramatic late intervention from Cristiano Biraghi kept their meagre hopes of reaching the finals alive.
“We want to continue along the same path from the Poland game,” said Mancini. “We can improve on many things, especially by being more clinical in front of goal.
“We're fighting for first place. Winning must always be our objective.
“We must play good football and look to win the fans back. We are Italy.”
Portugal, meanwhile, have made serene progress thus far, despite playing without superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.
He had been tipped to return for the encounters against Italy and Poland, forcing head coach Fernando Santos to face a barrage of questions when it was revealed he had once more left out.
“The only thing I think about Ronaldo is that he should win the Ballon d'Or,” he said as the joint decision to allow Cristiano a break until 2019 was honoured.
Santos and his side have fared perfectly well without the Juventus ace, winning three of their four post-World Cup encounters, with the sole slip coming via a 1-1 draw with Croatia.
Ronaldo, though, will expect to be front and centre for the Nations League finals – he just needs his team to finish off the qualification process in a professional manner.