Italy vs Malta Preview: Probable Lineups, Prediction, Tactics, Team News & Key Stats

Italy will aim to stretch their unbeaten run in UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers to four games when they welcome Group C minnows Malta to Bari’s Stadio San Nicola on Saturday.

Reigning European champions Italy continue their hunt to qualify for UEFA Euro 2024 with a home match against already-eliminated Malta at Stadio San Nicola on Saturday night.

After winning the rearranged Euros back in 2021, the Azzurri unprecedently failed to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup after a dramatic upset at the hands of North Macedonia in a qualifying playoff, before making somewhat of a recovery by finishing third in the UEFA Nations League.

Since then, Roberto Mancini has left the international stage for the petrodollars of the Saudi Pro League, with Luciano Spalletti being appointed as his successor in August of this year.

The former Napoli boss kicked things off with a 1-1 draw against North Macedonia before guiding his side to a narrow 2-1 victory over Ukraine. Those results have moved Italy into joint second spot in Group C, with seven points from a possible 12 so far — six points shy of leaders England, who have played a game more than the Azzurri.

Despite looking well-placed to achieve automatic qualification, Italy made hard work of trumping a resilient Ukraine in an attempt to match England in the race for a place in Germany. Victory in Bari will put Italy on ten points, crucially three ahead of third-place Ukraine on seven points.

However, a poor result against England at Wembley in the very next game could set up a winner-take-all clash with Ukraine in November if Serhiy Rebrov’s side remain on course to compete with Italy in the coming weeks.

As for Malta, they are one of the weakest teams in Europe and the world, currently ranked 171 by FIFA. So, it is not a surprise they are rooted to the foot of the group, having lost each of their opening five matches.

Michele Marcolini’s side did manage to secure a rare morale-booster victory over Gibraltar in a friendly game last month, but it would be fair to say they have an uphill task to even get on the scoresheet against Italy.

Team News & Tactics


Ciro Immobile has been ruled out with an injury, making way for Moise Kean’s national team return. Tottenham stars Destiny Udogie and Guglielmo Vicario are in line for their maiden Italy caps for the Azzurri.

In-form Fiorentina playmaker Giacomo Bonaventura has also earned his first call-up since 2020, and the veteran could feature in some capacity on Saturday. Meanwhile Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo have left Italy’s training camp after being told they are involved in an investigation by Italian prosecutors for illegal betting activities.

Matteo Politano and Samuele Ricci have been called up to the national team to replace Tonali and Zaniolo. Gianluca Scamacca and Federico Chiesa are not fully fit and are likely to be rested against Malta, while Lorenzo Pellegrini and Leonardo Spinazzola are other notable absentees for the hosts.

Luciano Spalletti will use this game as a testing ground for some fringe players who are eager to impress as he puts together his plans for the England game. Spalletti has a limited number of options for the attack due to various injuries. Giacomo Raspadori, Domenico Berardi and Moise Kean have been tested out in a trident attack in training. He could line up similarly here, with Berardi and Kean on the wings, Napoli striker Raspadori used as a centre-forward.

Manuel Locatelli is expected to line up in the holding role of the midfield trio alongside Davide Frattesi and Nicolo Barella. Matteo Darmian and Federico Dimarco will be manning their respective flanks, with Gianluca Mancini and Alessandro Bastoni forming the central defensive pairing in front of goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Darmian, Mancini, Bastoni, Dimarco; Barella, Locatelli, Frattesi; Berardi, Raspadori, Kean


Malta head coach Michele Marcolini has not introduced a new face or made a recall ahead of their trip to Bari this weekend. Malta’s squad boasts a raft of unknown quantities. Most of the players are playing in the domestic league, with only five playing outside of Malta, namely Zach Muscat, Cain Attard, Teddy Teuma, Matthew Guillaumier, and Jodi Jones.

Teuma is by far the team’s biggest star, having starred for French outfit Reims with four goals and two assists from his opening eight Ligue 1 games since his summer move from Union St. Gilloise. However, the 30-year-old forward is out of contention alongside Notts County’s Jodi Jones due to injury.

The visitors will also be without their skipper Steve Borg, who is the most capped player with 76 international appearances, but he will miss the trip to Bari through suspension after he was booked for the third time in the qualification campaign during September’s defeat to North Macedonia.

The defender will likely be replaced by Cain Attard in the starting XI as Marcolini looks to opt for a defensive set-up. Midfielder Yannick Yankam is the only player to score for Malta in qualifying, and he is set to start in Bari, as is Hibernian attacker Jurgen Degabriele, who is their most prolific player in the starting lineup, having bagged six international goals to date.

Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Bonello; J. Borg, Muscat, Pepe; Mbong, Kristensen, Guillaumier, Camenzuli; Yankam, Degabriele; Nwoko

Key Stats

  • Italy and Malta have met each other nine times over the years, with the Azzurri triumphing on every occasion.
  • Malta failed to score in three of their last four international matches.
  • Malta have lost their last 14 Euro qualifiers.
  • Malta have conceded 11 goals in five UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying Group C matches.
  • Malta have managed to win just two of their previous nine matches across all competitions, conceding 14 goals along the way.

Player to Watch

Domenico Berardi

Embed from Getty Images

While Ciro Immobile has been criticised for not bringing their club form to the international stage in the past, Domenico Berardi has a lot to prove for Italy too. An established Serie A star, he has been on extraordinary form for Sassuolo this season once again, scoring five goals and assisting once in six Serie A games so far.

However, he never made quite the same impact for Italy, scoring six goals and with only two assists in 27 senior caps. He found the net once in his last 16 Azzurri appearances, converting a decisive penalty in the Nations League third-place clash against Belgium. He will surely be looking to change the narrative in this international break.


Italy 2-0 Malta

The hosts will likely have one eye on their blockbuster showdown with old-foes England at Wembley on Tuesday night. So, Luciano Spalletti will most likely want to get three points here with the minimum of fuss.

This Italian squad has more than enough quality to run riot against such inferior opposition. However, their Maltese visitors certainly have not let down themselves with heavy defeats in any of their opening five Group C games, scoring more than two goals just once.

With that in mind, The Hard Tackle expects to cruise to a 2-0 victory in Bari against group whipping boys Malta, giving them a slight advantage in what is looking like a fiercely competitive scrap to finish runners-up to group leaders England.

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