North Macedonia vs Italy: Euro 2024 Qualifiers Preview, Potential Lineups & Prediction

A third consecutive failed attempt to qualify for a major international tournament would be a disaster for Italy. Keen to avoid that fate, Gli Azzurri head to the National Arena Toshe Proeski in Skopje to lock horns with North Macedonia in a high-stakes Euro 2024 qualifier on Saturday.

Following another busted bid to guide Italy to the World Cup finals, long-serving manager Roberto Mancini left the job in August. The ex-Inter boss led Gli Azzurri to Euro 2020 glory, beating England at Wembley Stadium after a penalty shoot-out. His successor, Luciano Spalletti, has dived into the realm of international management to fill the vacancy.

The 64-year-old inspired Napoli to a long-awaited Scudetto last season. But less than a month after being crowned the Serie A champion, he stepped down as Partenopei boss. Spalletti will embark on his highly-anticipated stint at Italy against a North Macedonia side that ousted Gli Azzurri from the 2022 World Cup playoff final last year.

It’s been over three decades since Italy last failed to qualify for the Euro finals. However, they’ve blown hot and cold in their opening two qualifying Group C outings (W1, L1). After a 2-1 home loss to Spain, they eased past continental minnows Malta 2-0 last time out to go on par with North Macedonia. 

Both sides start this round three points adrift of second-placed Ukraine, with pacesetters England already out of reach with all four victories and a +14 goal difference. But the North Macedonians come into proceedings off the back of back-to-back qualifying defeats via an aggregate score of 10-2, including a dreadful 7-0 loss at England last time out.

Match Preview

North Macedonia

Before losing twice in a row, North Macedonia secured a narrow 2-1 home win over Malta to kick things off in Group C. They were on the verge of maintaining a 100% qualifying start but squandered a 2-0 halftime lead in a stomach-wrenching 3-2 home loss to Ukraine on matchday two. If it’s any consolation, the Lynxes’ free-scoring home form bears plenty of promise.

Blagoja Milenvski’s men could be staring down the barrel of a three-match losing streak in Euro qualifiers for the first time since 2015. Adding to this sentiment, since the start of 2022, they have lost four of their eight home internationals (W3, D1), ominously conceding three goals in three of those four defeats. 

Player to Watch: Elif Elmas

Despite falling out of favor at Napoli, Elmas could be North Macedonia’s best hope of finding the net here. The versatile forward has tallied six of his 11 international goals in Euro qualifying matches.


While they trail Ukraine at the start of this round, Italy can draw confidence from having a game in hand. However, that would mean next to nothing if they fail to avenge a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in FIFA World Cup qualifying in March 2022. That result forms part of Italy’s indifferent all-time H2H record against North Macedonia (W1, D1, L1).

On a more positive note, the Italians have only suffered one defeat in 42 Euro qualifiers since September 2006 (W35, D6)! Furthermore, they have emerged victorious on their last seven road trips in Euro qualifying, including the most recent three without conceding. That said, Italy have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their three previous matches against this opposition.

Player to Watch: Matteo Zaccagni

While he’s still searching for his first goal contribution in 2023/24, the Lazio winger produced an eye-catching performance in a 2-1 win at Napoli last weekend. He was unfortunate to see VAR disallow his goal for a narrow offside position.

Team News

Defender Visar Musliu returns from suspension, but North Macedonia will desperately miss Burnley’s Darko Churlinov and Struga forward Marjan Radeski. Both players are on the sidelines with injuries. 

As for Italy, Leonardo Bonucci, Jorginho, and Marco Verratti will play no part in Spalletti’s touchline debut despite enjoying prominent roles during the nation’s dream Euro 2020 run. Federico Chiesa is out with an injury. 

North Macedonia vs Italy Potential Lineups

North Macedonia (5-2-1-2): Stole Dimitrievski; Stefan Ashkovski, Darko Velkovski, Visar Musliu, Gjoko Zajkov, Ezgjan Alioski; Arijan Ademi, Enis Bardhi; Elmas; Aleksandar Trajkovski, Ilija Nestorovski. 

Italy (4-3-3): Gianluigi Donnarumma; Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Alessio Romagnoli, Alessandro Bastoni, Federico Dimarco; Nicolo Barella, Sandro Tonali, Manuel Locatelli; Matteo Politano, Ciro Immobile, Matteo Zaccagni. 

North Macedonia vs Italy Prediction

Revenge is a dish best served cold. At least, that’s what Italy will have in mind when they touch down in Skopje. While their hosts deserve the benefit of the doubt, we back Gli Azzurri to take home an all-important three points.

Prediction: Italy Win