As Italy face England in the Euro 2020 final this weekend, Gareth Southgate will be looking to do his homework on how Roberto Mancini's side play. But will the Italian manager spring any surprises on his counterpart to throw him off?
Italy don't have as much depth in their squad as the English do. After losing Leonardo Spinazzola to injury midway through the competition, too, they're going to have to compensate for losing one of their standout stars.
Chelsea full-back Emerson replaced the Roma player for the semi-final against Spain. Emerson didn't quite get as high up the pitch as Spinazzola and was eventually replaced by Rafael Toloi of Atalanta.
However Mancini plays though, it's likely that he'll employ the same system that's got Italy to this point.
As you can see from the graphic above, Italy play in a 4-3-3 shape, which morphs into a 3-3-4 when the Azzurri attack.
Leonardo Spinazzola (the no.4) has been key to this. He gets high up the pitch, under and overlapping, while Giorgio Chiellini (no.3) covers him; this makes sense since Chiellini has experience playing at left-back. Italy then form what is essentially a back three, with right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo staying back.
Spinazzola's attacking runs mean that Lorenzo Insigne can then cut inside and shoot or create. On the other side, the right-winger is supporting by Nicolo Barella (no.18), who can vacate the midfield - like he did when he scored against Belgium.
Italy's midfield can remain as a wide three or morph into a double-pivot of Jorginho (no.8) and Marco Verratti (no.6), depending on whether Barella is supporting an attack. Equally, if Verratti pushes up to support Insigne and Spinazzola, Barella will drop deeper to help Jorginho.
Interestingly, England play very similarly. Luke Shaw pushes up high with Walker staying back to recover possession in transition; where Italy have a three-man midfield, however, with Verratti and Barella moving vertically to support attacks, England have Mason Mount as an attacking midfielder, who can shift horizontally. Most often in this tournament though, Phillips has pushed up to support the right-winger, similarly to Barella.
Who will play for Italy?
It seems unlikely that Mancini will deviate massively from the system that has been so successful for him so far. Nine of the 11 players seem certain to start, barring any late injuries.
That's Gianluigi Donnarumma between the sticks with Di Lorenzo out on the defensive right-back role and stalwart centre-backs Bonucci and Chiellini at centre-back. Emerson is perhaps most likely to start out on the left - should Mancini not be sufficiently impressed with the Chelsea player's performance against Spain, however, Toloi could be dropped into right-back instead, with Di Lorenzo tasked with "The Spinazzola role".
The midfield triumvirate of Jorginho anchoring with Barella and Verratti either side is likely to continue. Insigne is the standout choice out on the left, with Immobile preferred to Andrea Belotti through the middle.
The only other selection headache for Mancini is who he picks on Italy's right-wing. Chiesa has impressed in the knockouts, while Domenico Berardi could be an option from the start, with Chiesa used later on. Federico Bernardeschi has also played out there during this tournament and could get the nod.
Subscribe to FourFourTwo today (opens in new tab) and get a FREE England Euro 96 shirt!
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Mark White has been a staff writer on FourFourTwo since joining in January 2020, writing pieces for both online and the magazine. An encyclopedia of football shirts and boots knowledge – both past and present – Mark has also been to the FA Cup and League Cup finals for FFT and has written pieces for the mag ranging on subjects from Bobby Robson's season at Barcelona to Robinho's career. He once saw Tyrone Mings at a petrol station in Bournemouth but felt far too short to ask for a photo.