Preview: Croatia vs Italy – Team News, Lineups & Prediction

Red Bull Arena in Leipzig sets the stage for a ‘make or break’ Euro 2024 Group B encounter between Croatia and Italy. Monday’s clash at the home of RB Leipzig will witness the elimination of one of the two dark horses to win the tournament, with Gli Azzurri in a better position to secure a safe knockout passage.

A humiliating 3-0 loss to Spain at the beginning of their sixth consecutive Euro finals campaign left Croatia’s progression hopes in tatters. But they could’ve rectified that disastrous result in the second round, only to concede a stoppage-time equalizer against Albania.

Despite overcoming a halftime deficit, Zlatko Dalic’s side ended up drawing 2-2 against the Balkan minnows and now cannot settle for anything other than three points in this tantalizing affair. Failing to beat Italy would condemn Croatia to their first group-stage exit at a major tournament since the 2014 World Cup.

But although they’re in the driver’s seat to land a last-16 berth, the Italians know better than to underestimate a team that has finished in the top three of the last two World Cups. Luciano Spalletti’s charges pulled off a quick turnaround to dispatch Albania 2-1 in their curtain-raising Group B outing.

Yet, their matchday-two encounter against Spain was an unmitigated disaster. Gianluigi Donnarumma’s heroics between the sticks helped Italy avoid a catastrophe in a 1-0 defeat in Gelsenkirchen, courtesy of Riccardo Calafiori’s unfortunate own goal at the start of the second half.

Simply avoiding defeat against Croatia would suffice for Italy. And that’s a feat they’ve achieved in the last three meetings between the two teams, all of which ended 1-1.

Match Preview


Croatia’s erratic showings at Euro 2024 are not surprising, considering the pillars of their golden generation are in the autumn of their playing careers. Luka Modric and Marcelo Brozovic are well past their prime, with the latter expected to drop out of the starting XI after a disappointing performance against Albania.

Second-half substitute in that match, Ante Budimir, helped Croatia turn the game on its head and avoid losing back-to-back fixtures at a major tournament for the first time since Euro 1996. But Dalic must address the Blazers’ defensive woes to give his frontline a fighting chance against Italy after overseeing nine straight Euro contests without a clean sheet.

It gets worse for Croatia, as they’ve conceded a whopping ten goals across their last three outings at the tournament. However, if there’s a silver lining for the 2022 World Cup bronze medalists, it’s their head-to-head against Italy.

Since gaining independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, they’ve not lost any of their seven clashes against Gli Azzurri (W3, D4).

Player to Watch: Ante Budimir

He wasn’t at his best against Spain, but after coming off the bench against Albania, he was at the thick of Croatia’s fightback. With two assists, he was the Blazers’ standout performer and will probably take Bruno Petkovic’s place in the starting lineup in this pivotal match-up.


The Italians’ perennial struggles against Croatia paint a bleak picture, but luckily, they don’t need to win to progress past the Euros group stages for the fifth consecutive tournament. Nonetheless, Spalletti would probably appreciate a positive result after his side fell into pieces against Spain.

On a run of six successive Euro finals games without a clean sheet, Italy can’t get comfortable against Dalic’s veterans. But in search of good omens, their last shutout at the tournament came on the matchday three of Euro 2020.

Familiar with tight scorelines, Gli Azzurri have won or lost by a single-goal margin in three of their last four internationals (W2, D1, L1). Another evenly-contested game is on the cards, knowing six of Italy’s seven historic showdowns against Croatia have ended separating the sides by under 1.5 goals.

Player to Watch: Nicolo Barella

If Italy can get the Inter midfielder on the scoresheet, it would probably seal the deal, as he’s been a talismanic figure for this team since breaking into the senior squad. His winner against Albania has maintained a reach tradition of Gli Azzurri winning every time Barella finds the net (W10).

Team News

Both camps have announced changes ahead of this match.

In addition to Brozovic and Petkovic, Croatia could nail Ivan Perisic to the bench and bring Lecce’s Marin Pongracic, Atalanta’s Mario Pasalic, and Budimir back to the starting XI. Torino’s Nikola Vlasic cannot help his side after sustaining a muscle injury against Spain.

As for Italy, Federico Dimarco is unavailable due to a knock he suffered against La Furia Roja, meaning Calafiori could move to left-back to fill the void. Giovanni Di Lorenzo will probably surrender his place in the XI to Raoul Bellanova or Matteo Darmian.

In attack, Gianluca Scamacca will drop after two disastrous displays, with Genoa’s Mateo Retegui ready to jump in.

Croatia vs Italy Potential Lineups

Croatia (4-3-3): Dominik Livakovic; Josip Stanisic, Josip Sutalo, Josko Gvardiol, Ivan Perisic; Luka Modric, Luka Sucic, Mateo Kovacic; Mario Pasalic, Ante Budimir, Andrej Kramaric.

Italy (4-2-3-1): Gianluigi Donnarumma; Matteo Darmian, Alesandro Bastoni, Alesandro Buongiorno, Riccardo Calafiori; Nicolo Fagioli, Nicolo Barella; Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Mattia Zaccagni; Mateo Retegui.

Croatia vs Italy Prediction

With the game set to be contested on a knife edge, one goal could determine the winner, meaning whoever scores first would probably stand a better chance of joining Spain in the knockouts. If there’s anything Italy have got their fans used to, it’s thriving in such environments.

We’re backing Italy to come out on top of this mouth-watering clash.

Prediction: Italy Win

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