England vs Italy: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle looks at three players who can singlehandedly influence the tie between England and Italy on Tuesday.

The latest matchday of the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers will culminate on Tuesday, with several teams still looking to book their place in the finals in Germany next year. Group C will feature the marquee fixture of the latest round of fixtures, with England and Italy locking horns at Wembley.

The exact fixture was the UEFA Euro 2020 final, with England and Italy playing a closely-contested game at Wembley two years ago. The Azzurri came up trumps in that encounter in London, as it went to penalty shootouts. But the Three Lions have responded well since then as they sit atop Group C.

Gareth Southgate’s men are unbeaten in UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers thus far, sitting three points ahead of Italy. Speaking of the visitors, they have experienced a change in the managerial hot seat, with Luciano Spalletti taking over from Roberto Mancini, who has moved to Saudi Arabia.

With top spot on the line in Tuesday’s blockbuster clash, the margin of error will be small. In addition, several “key players” can singlehandedly determine the result. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle picks three stars who can influence the game this midweek.

Nicolo Barella

Liverpool retain interest in Real Madrid target Nicolo Barella.
Will Liverpool, Real Madrid target Barella deliver the goods on Tuesday? (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)

Closely-contested clashes often pivot from the midfield battle, with both teams cancelling each other out. Tuesday’s game will also have an intriguing duel in the middle of the park, with Nicolo Barella being central to Italy’s plans.

The Inter Milan playmaker has steadily grown in stature in the last few years. Such has been his rise that he is now a pivotal figure for his club and country. Meanwhile, Barella’s progress has captured the attention of high-profile clubs like Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Newcastle United.

But he has been exasperated by a lack of output from his teammates since the UEFA Euro 2020 triumph. Nonetheless, Barella’s creative output will be crucial for Italy to overpower England and find a way past Jordan Pickford. In addition, the 26-year-old must contribute off the ball by putting in the hard yards and nip England’s attacks in the bud. And Italy will be in business if he rises to the occasion.

Harry Maguire

We move on from the midfield battle to England’s backline, which has been top-class during the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers. While Italy’s attack has flattered to deceive at times, they will still give the Three Lions a run for their money. So, Harry Maguire needs to step up on Tuesday.

The former Manchester United captain has seen his fortunes at the club level spiral out of control. Maguire once had the world at his feet, as he was one of the first names on the team sheet for his club and country. But his stock has plummeted in the last 18 months, especially on the Manchester United front.

The frustrations at the club level have also gotten the better of him on the international stage sometimes. But Maguire has soldiered on to retain his spot as the first-choice centre-back for England. Meanwhile, he is popular in the market, with West Ham United still keen on signing him.

As for Tuesday’s game, Maguire’s performance at the back can help England seal top spot in Group C of UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers. He tends to reserve his best for the biggest games, and another such showing should be on the cards this midweek.

Domenico Berardi

After covering the midfield and the defence, we end our list with an attacker. But we move back to Italy for this one, with Domenico Berardi taking the cake for the last spot in the “key players” shortlist.

The Sassuolo attacker has been a picture of consistency at the club level, often carrying his team with game-changing performances season after season. His teammates often flatter to deceive, leaving Berardi to his own devices. Unfortunately for him, that has also been the case on the international stage.

Ciro Immobile has not fired on all cylinders and Giacomo Raspadori has not been consistent. Meanwhile, Federico Chiesa is missing the latest qualifying fixtures due to a muscle injury. So, Berardi has the onus on him to deliver the goods for the visiting team.

The 29-year-old inspired the win over Malta by scoring a match-winning brace. Another game-changing performance should be on the cards on Tuesday, and he will look to put England on notice at Wembley.

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