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Italy national football team
Euro Champ Qualifying | Group Stage
Oct 14, 2023 at 7.45pm UK
Stadio Comunale San Nicola
Malta national football team

Italy
4 - 0
Malta

Bonaventura (22'), Berardi (45+1', 63'), Frattesi (90+3')
FT(HT: 2-0)

Mbong (44'), Yankam (53'), Apap (54')

Preview: Italy vs. Malta - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Euro Champ Qualifying clash between Italy and Malta, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Seeking back-to-back victories to cut the gap to Group C leaders England down to three points, Italy welcome already-eliminated Malta to the Stadio San Nicola in Bari on Saturday.

The Azzurri triumphed 2-1 over Ukraine in their most recent Euro 2024 qualifying encounter, while their cellar-dwelling visitors were comfortably put to the sword by North Macedonia in a 2-0 beating.


Match preview

Italy coach Luciano Spalletti on September 9, 2023© Reuters

With their Euro 2020 final opponents taking a brief break from competitive action to pit their wits against Australia in a friendly, Italy can pile the pressure on the Three Lions heading into next Tuesday's tantalising Wembley reunion, and steady progress has been made under Scudetto-winning coach Luciano Spalletti.

Since beginning the defence of their crown with a 2-1 loss to Gareth Southgate's vengeful troops, Spalletti's side have responded by taking seven points from the last nine on offer in Group C, although the Azzurri did not exactly assert their dominance in September.

A forgettable 1-1 draw away to North Macedonia preceded a narrow 2-1 triumph over the Ukrainians, who were hit by a Davide Frattesi brace before pulling one back through Andriy Yarmolenko, but Italy nevertheless clung on to move into second place in the tightly-packed section.

All of Italy, Ukraine and North Macedonia lie on seven points in the section - with the unbeaten England riding off into the sunset with 13 - but owing to their recent Nations League exertions, where they overcame the Netherlands in the third-placed playoff, Spalletti's men have a game in hand on all of the teams around them.

March's home loss to England incredibly represents Italy's sole defeat from their last 44 European Championship qualifying matches, and not since a goalless draw with Northern Ireland in 2010 have the reigning champions failed to score at this stage - statistics which offer a mauled Malta little optimism indeed.

Malta coach Michele Marcolini on March 23, 2023© Reuters

Even if Italy are bumped out of the top two in the coming months, the Azzurri will be offered a second bite at the qualification cherry in the playoff route, which is more than can be said for a Malta side whose Group C campaign has been yet another humbling experience.

The visitors' agonising wait for a first major tournament appearance is now guaranteed to go on, as the team managed by Italian native Michele Marcolini were consigned to their fate by North Macedonia, who struck through Eljif Elmas and Jovan Manev on matchday five.

A sudden charge for a top-two finish was already fanciful at best for the world's 171st-ranked nation, who remain bottom of Group C without a single point to their name - as well as just one goal to show for their efforts - and they can officially no longer finish any higher than third.

A pair of 1-0 friendly wins over Luxembourg and Gibraltar this year means that the Maltese faithful have at least had something to shout about, but the latter are one of only two goalless sides to have performed worse on the attacking front than the Reds in the UEFA groups, alongside perennial whipping boys San Marino.

A 15th successive defeat in Euros qualifying is now expected to rear its ugly head for Malta, who have never beaten Italy in any of their previous 18 meetings and have not scored against the Azzurri since 1993; even then Carmel Busuttil's penalty was a mere consolation in a 6-1 obliteration.

Italy Euro Champ Qualifying form:


Italy form (all competitions):


Malta Euro Champ Qualifying form:


Malta form (all competitions):


Team News

Lazio's Ciro Immobile celebrates scoring their first goal on May 12, 2023© Reuters

Given the differing calibre of opposition for their two fixtures this month, Italy boss Spalletti could be tempted to tinker with his options this weekend, especially with Gianluca Scamacca still working his way back to full fitness and Federico Chiesa withdrawing on Friday.

Italy's attacking conundrum does not end there, as neither Mattia Zaccagni nor 17-goal striker Ciro Immobile are at Spalletti's disposal this month, with the former pulling out of the squad alongside uncapped Lazio goalkeeper and Champions League goalscorer Ivan Provedel.

With a distinct lack of offensive options, Spalletti is understood to have deployed Moise Kean, Giacomo Raspadori and Domenico Berardi as the attacking triumvirate in training this week, while Frattesi's pivotal brace against Ukraine will benefit his chances of another start in the engine room.

The Azzurri have also been rocked by an alleged illegal betting scandal involving two national team members, Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo, both of whom have left the camp in the wake of the accusations.

Malta can empathise when it comes to attacking shortages, as Reims hotshot Teddy Teuma - who has four goals and two assists to show from his opening eight games in Ligue 1 - is out of contention alongside Notts County's Jodi Jones due to injury.

In addition, captain Steve Borg was booked for the third time in Group C during September's loss to North Macedonia and will miss the trip to Bari through suspension, meaning either Jean Borg - no relation - or Kurt Shaw will step in for their banned skipper on Saturday.


Italy possible starting lineup:
Donnarumma; Darmian, Mancini, Bastoni, Dimarco; Barella, Locatelli, Frattesi; Berardi, Raspadori, Kean

Malta possible starting lineup:
Bonello; J. Borg, Muscat, Pepe; Mbong, Kristensen, Guillaumier, Camenzuli; Yankam, Degabriele; Nwoko


SM words green background

We say: Italy 4-0 Malta

Even with one eye on the impending trip to Wembley and a ravaged, Immobile-less attack, Italy should not run into many obstacles en route to a comfortable victory at the Stadio San Nicola.

The absence Teuma in particular will hamper Malta's chances of breaking their 30-year goalless streak against the reigning European champions, and a sixth defeat from six surely awaits the Reds, as Italy send out a early warning to England ahead of next week's highly-anticipated battle.


For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.


Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 3.5:data


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Game History

How you voted: Italy vs Malta

Italy
84.1%
Draw
9.5%
Malta
6.3%
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Italy coach Luciano Spalletti on September 9, 2023
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Group A

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Spain Spain870121
Q Scotland flag Scotland852117
3 Norway Norway832311
4 Georgia Georgia82248
5 Cyprus Cyprus80080

Group B

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Q France France871022
Q Netherlands Netherlands860218
3 Greece Greece841313
4 Ireland Rep. Ireland82066
5 Gibraltar flag Gibraltar80080

Group C

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Q England flag England862020
Q Italy Italy842214
3 Ukraine Ukraine842214
4 Macedonia N. Macedonia82248
5 Malta flag Malta80080

Group D

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Q Turkey Turkey852117
Q Croatia Croatia851216
3 Wales flag Wales833212
4 Armenia Armenia82248
5 Latvia Latvia81073

Group E

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Albania national flag Albania843115
Q Czech Republic Czech Republic843115
3 Poland Poland832311
4 Republic of Moldova Moldova824210
5 Faroe Islands Faroe Islands80262

Group F

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Q Belgium Belgium862020
Q Austria Austria861119
3 Sweden Sweden831410
4 Azerbaijan Azerbaijan82157
5 Estonia Estonia80171

Group G

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Q Hungary Hungary853018
Q Serbia Serbia842214
3 Montenegro Montenegro832311
4 Lithuania Lithuania81346
5 Bulgaria Bulgaria80444

Group H

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Q Denmark Denmark1071222
Q Slovenia Slovenia1071222
3 Finland Finland1060418
4 Kazakhstan Kazakhstan1060418
5 Northern Ireland flag N. Ireland103079
6 San Marino flag San Marino1000100

Group I

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Q Romania Romania1064022
Q Switzerland Switzerland1045117
3 Israel Israel1043315
4 Belarus Belarus1033412
5 Kosovo flag Kosovo1025311
6 Andorra flag Andorra100282

Group J

TeamPWDLPTS
Q Portugal Portugal10100030
Q Slovakia Slovakia1071222
3 Luxembourg flag Luxembourg1052317
4 Iceland Iceland1031610
5 Bosnia Bosnia H'vina103079
6 Liechtenstein flag Liechtenstein1000100


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