A huge month beckons for Luciano Spalletti and the Italian national team as they attempt to qualify for Euro 2024.
Potentially scarred by previous mishaps, the Italians need at least three points from their remaining two games to progress alongside England. Spalletti’s side are currently three points adrift of second-place Ukraine having played one game fewer.
North Macedonia, due to an inferior head-to-head record with Ukraine, have no chance of qualifying for the finals in Germany. However, Blagoja Milevski’s side have had their fair share of success against Italy in recent times, memorably dashing their chances of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup with a play-off victory in Palermo.
The Azzurri were also held by North Macedonia in the reverse fixture which served as Spalletti’s debut in Italy’s dugout.
Here’s 90min’s preview of Friday’s crucial Euro 2024 qualifier.
Italy vs North Macedonia H2H Results
Current Form (Last Five Games)
TV channel/live stream
Viaplay Sports 1
Spalletti initially named a 29-man squad for Italy’s upcoming qualifiers, but multiple players have already withdrawn due to injuries.
Davide Calabria, Alex Meret, Rafael Toloi and Manuel Locatelli are among those that won’t feature. Doubts also reside over the statuses of Moise Kean, Bryan Cristante and Andrea Cambiaso.
An injury meant Spalletti opted against calling up Tottenham Hotspur’s Destiny Udogie, but star Juventus forward Federico Chiesa is available for the Azzurri.
Giovanni Di Lorenzo, captain of the Napoli side that won last season’s Serie A title under Spalletti, will miss Friday’s game due to a suspension.
Italy predicted lineup vs North Macedonia (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Darmian, Acerbi, Bastoni, Dimarco; Cristante, Barella, Frattesi; Berardi, Scamacca, Chiesa.
There are no major injury concerns for the visitors.
Napoli’s Elif Elmas is one the leading stars in this North Macedonian side, and he’ll face off against former coach Spalletti on Friday night. The Italians know all too much about Aleksandar Trajkovski, who scored the decisive goal which ensured Italy didn’t qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Trajkovski should start in the frontline in Rome.
North Macedonia predicted lineup vs Italy (4-3-3): Dimitrievski; Ashkovski, Musliu, Zaykov, Alioski; Bardhi, Ademi, Elmas; Trajkovski, Nestorovski, Miovski.
While Italy can still qualify even if they lose on Friday night, there’s no doubt that the Olimpico will be tense throughout given the Azzurri’s recent troubles when qualifying for major tournaments.
Spalletti will be hampered by numerous absences, but Italy should still have the quality, especially in forward areas, to get the all-important three points in this one. North Macedonia will prove tricky opposition once again, and the hosts may have to rely upon some late magic.
Prediction: Italy 2-1 North Macedonia
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