After a surprise home loss to England, Germany might have hoped for an easy game to repair their confidence. But that’s not what they have. Italy may be lacking the stars of old but the they remain dangerous.
It’s been 21 years since Germany last beat Italy and their form – losing three of their last four games - suggests their record against the Azzurri may not improve on Tuesday in Munich.
However, some German fans might take heart from an Italy squad lacking star quality. Gone are the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti and Andrea Pirlo, players who helped their side to World Cup glory in 2006. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is the only member of th World Cup final side in the current squad.
But Italy boss Antonio Conte, who will leave the role after Euro 2016, has built a hardworking side that earned a very creditable 1-1 draw against Spain on Thursday. The likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Thiago Motta may not hog the spotlight like some of their predecessors but they have been part of a solid side that went unbeaten through qualifying. Germany boss Joachim Löw says he won’t be among those under-estimating the opposition.
“I did not see Italy's game against Spain, but I have been told they put in a great performance," he said. "Italy are always among the favorites at the Euros. They will be very competitive.
While it may be true that the Italians are among those in with a chance of glory in France, there are suggestions from some quarters they are a little short on quality up front. Southampton’s Graziano Pelle has been inconsistent for Southampton in the Premier League and didn’t make his debut for Italy until he was 30, while Juventus’ Simone Zaza, who replaced Pelle during the Spain match, has only one international goal to his name.
Germany also have a decision to make upfront. Mario Gomez scored against England but there are suggestions Löw will give Mario Götze a chance up top in an attempt to play a more fluid style. Further back, Hoffenheim’s Sebastian Rudy is expected to replace Emre Can at right back, while Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah looks set to make his first start for Germany at centre back.
Perhaps in reaction to his side’s lack of attacking prowess and midfield creativity (PSG’s Marco Verratti is currently injured) Conte fielded a three man defense against Spain. He is expected to persist with the 3-4-3 formation on Tuesday and said he won’t under-estimate the home side, despite recent form.
“We are taking on a German team that are angry and want to bounce back,” Conte said. “They are going in to the match determined and highly focused.”
Behind Italy’s three man defense, Buffon, fresh from setting a record for the longest time without conceding in Serie A, is expected to win his 156th cap. At the other end of the pitch, Manuel Neuer’s stomach bug means Kevin Trapp or Bernd Leno could be in for a debut.
The visitors are likely to field Lorenzo Insigne on the left of their attack after he came off the bench to score last Thursday, with Stephan El Shaarawy likely to start the right.
Löw may rest Thomas Müller and hand a start to Julian Draxler but is expected to stick with Toni Kroos and stand-in skipper Sami Khedira in the middle of the park.
Germany kick off their Euros campaign against Ukraine on June 12 while Italy will make their tournament bow the next day against Belgium.