Monday is the day of reckoning as Ukraine and Italy go head-to-head at Leverkusen’s BayArena in a crunch UEFA 2024 European Championship qualifier. Despite the expectations, Euro 2024 qualifying Group C has gone down to the wire, with the two nations set to trade tackles in a qualification six-pointer.
Locked on 13 points, second-placed Italy and third-place Ukraine will decide who will join England as the second Group C passenger to Germany. With the stakes at an all-time high, Luciano Spalletti’s men have no margin for error, knowing another failed attempt to qualify for a major tournament would be a national catastrophe.
Italy came out 2-1 victors in the reverse fixture in Milan. Since the H2H record serves as a tie-breaker, avoiding defeat on German soil would catapult the reigning European champions to their eighth consecutive Euro finals. After missing out on last year’s World Cup in Qatar, the Italians await this clash with bated breath.
However, Ukraine will take the field heavily motivated to give the nation disrupted by Russia’s ongoing invasion something to cheer about. Like Italy, who dismantled North Macedonia 5-2 on Friday, Serhiy Rebrov’s side emerged victorious in their penultimate Euro 2024 qualifier, dispatching Mediterranean minnows Malta 3-1 away from home.
Forced to live a nomad life due to tragic circumstances back home, the Ukrainians have become well-versed in performing in hostile environments. That could increase the likelihood of their fourth successive appearance at the Euros, which hinges on taking three points from this fixture.
Since going down in Milan, Rebrov’s men have won back-to-back Euro qualifiers against North Macedonia and Malta by two-goal margins. A 2-0 friendly triumph over Polish outfit Lechia Gdansk ahead of this crunch encounter could’ve only consolidated Ukraine’s spirits. But Italy will present them with a different kind of challenge.
Ukraine might have gone unbeaten in their last nine matches as nominal hosts, yet six of those clashes have ended level (W3). Another draw won’t suffice. It means they’ll have to achieve a historic feat on Monday to book tickets to Germany, having never won a game against Italy across their previous nine attempts (D2, L7).
Player to Watch: Artem Dovbyk
Dovbyk hasn’t just been a talismanic fire for La Liga surprise package Girona this season. He has established himself as Ukraine’s lucky charm, with his national team racking up five wins in his six scoring international outings (D1).
The math is simple for Italy – avoid defeat and go to Germany. Spalletti’s team proved their credentials against North Macedonia, who have been a thorn in their side in recent years. The Italians’ arguably most dominant display since lifting the Euro 2020 crown two years ago came as a stark reminder of their formidable stature in European football.
If that’s not enough to put the nation’s tensions to rest, Italy’s remarkable record in Euro qualifiers might help. Except for a brace of defeats to England in the ongoing cycle, Gli Azzurri haven’t lost any of their last 45 Euro qualifying matches (W38, D7). But Italy would be better off not taking anything for granted following an underwhelming four-game form on foreign soil (W1, D1, L2).
Player to Watch: Federico Chiesa
As one of the architects of Italy’s thumping win against North Macedonia, Chiesa affirmed the value he brings to this team with a first-half brace. With three of the Juventus ace’s last four international goals arriving before halftime, Spalletti will trust him to fire Italy off to a perfect start.
Dobvyk will be at the heart of Ukraine’s attack. Chelsea’s Mykhaylo Mudryk is about to return to the fold after recovering from injury, with three more Premier League stars expected to make Rebrov’s starting lineup. Everton’s Vitaliy Mykolenko and Bournemouth’s Illya Zabarnyi will form the backbone of the home side’s backline.
As for Italy, Spalletti has no reason to alter the frontline that put five past the North Macedonians, meaning Domenic Berardi and Giacomo Raspadori should partner Chiesa up top. There’s a potential for a slight change in the midfield, with Davide Frattesi in contention to take Jorginho’s place.
Ukraine vs Italy Potential Lineups
Ukraine (4-2-3-1): Anatoliy Trubin; Oleksandr Tymchyk, Illya Zabarnyi, Mykola Matvienko, Vitaliy Mykolenko; Serhiy Sydorchuk, Oleksandr Zinchenko; Yukhym Konoplya, Heorhiy Sudakov, Mykhaylo Mudryk; Artem Dovbyk.
Italy (4-3-3): Gianluigi Donnarumma; Matteo Darmian, Federico Gatti, Francesco Acerbi, Federico Dimarco; Nicolo Barella, Davide Frattesi, Giacomo Bonaventura; Domenico Berardi, Giacomo Raspadori, Federico Chiesa.
Ukraine vs Italy Prediction
Italy cannot afford a slip-up. They’ve worked hard to regain control of their qualification fate, and it would be a shame to throw that away here. It’s Ukraine who must take risks, and Spalletti’s frontline has enough pace and scoring prowess to exploit spaces at the back.
A draw would do the trick for Italy, yet we think Gli Azzurri can win this one.
Prediction: Italy Win
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