Euro 2016 Group E: Belgium can bruise Italy but must beware backline exposure
Holly Thackeray | June 11, 2016
Belgium v Italy
- Euro 2016 Group E
- Monday, June 13th
- Kick-off: 20:00 BST
- Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon
- Live on BBC One
Can Belgium edge experienced Italy?
Competitive Euro 2016 Group E’s glamour game throws fans an exciting fixture which would usually occur later on in the tournament, as pool favourites Belgium battle 1968 European champions Italy.
Coral have Marc Wilmots’ men priced at 6/4 to take the rewards from this headline tussle, after the Red Devils ran riot with a 3-1 win against the inconsistent Azzurri, Euro 2012 runners-up, back in November.
Though, history in this fascinating fixture between two strong but hot-and-cold tournament dark horses does not favour the Belgians, with Italy leading head-to-heads 13-4 from 21 wrangles.
There are four draws in the Belgium v Italy archives also, and another splitting of spoils has odds of 2/1 considering the experienced Italians, though far from at their finest, are wily enough to pick up points in dust-ups such as this.
Still, Antonio Conte and his crew seem yet to have settled on a specific system, or even personnel during the warm-ups, so look short at 21/10 to go back to base camp with all three points. A better bet, as we will go on to explain, could be Belgium to win and both teams to bag at 5/1, or the two teams to score with under 3.5 goals for 21/10.
Azzurri on the attack
Much more renowned for their rearguard solidity than intent up top, according to Napoli net threat Lorenzo Insigne (10/3 to disaptch anytime), Italy will be seeking to attack and exploit Belgium’s backline issues.
The Red Devils are missing skipper Vincent Kompany as well as fellow defender Nicolas Lombaerts, and seem to prefer playing natural centre halves in the full back positions, something coach Conte and co appear to have noticed.
“Belgium aren’t very solid in defence, so we will attack them,” Inisgne told press.
“They are strong in attack — but we’re not bad in attack either…We’re doing specific training aimed at causing Belgium problems.
“And as for [Dries] Mertens, we’re teammates at Napoli and he’s a player to keep an eye on as technically he’s very good.”
Canny Conte is thus tipped to go with three at the back and solid trio Daniele De Rossi, Marco Parolo and Emanuele Giaccherini anchoring the engine room in the absence of a true playmaker.
The defensive flanks are the areas which the Azzurri could instead exploit, with Lazio’s Antonio Candreva (7/2 anytime) and Stephan El Shaarawy (10/3) a penetrative pair on the wings in support of two strikers, one of which should be Southampton poacher Graziano Pelle (2/1).
Potential Hazard for Belgium
Italy did, however, suffer against Belgium’s star-studded side before and the Red Devils should theoretically have too much talent in their arsenal to fold. Though, they will have to work to find balance after failing to keep a clean sheet in their last seven matches.
Captain Eden Hazard (a 2/1 anytime punt) found some form at the end of the season for club Chelsea, but is considered a slight doubt after picking up a knock in training. Though tactician Wilmots addressed his injury issues, stating: “I don’t think it is serious, just a knock.
While the coach said Defender Thomas Vermaelen should also be fit:“Thomas has done well in training over the last days and is completely ready for the battle. He has no more problems.”
It is Kevin De Bruyne that the Red Devils actually can’t do without though, as the influential Manchester City star has the best caps-to-goals ratio of Belgium’s attacking contingent and is 7/1 to open scoring, or 14/5 to grab a goal anytime, after a stupendous season for the Sky Blues and a goal against Italy in November.
While, dangerous De Bruyne’s local club rival Marouane Fellaini of Manchester United is the highest scorer in the squad with 15 international strikes and can be backed at 5/1 to get on the scoresheet. Though, punters may prefer frontman Romelu Lukaku at 2/1 after the Everton frontman fired in 18 Premier League goals, or Napoli’s aforementioned magician Mertens (7/2).