Thursday, December 7, 2023

Luciano Spalletti looking for Italy to seize moment in crunch Ukraine showdown

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 Nov 2023


Luciano Spalletti is confident reigning continental champions Italy will seize the “right moment” to get the point they need to qualify for Euro 2024 from their showdown with rivals Ukraine in Leverkusen.

The second-placed Azzurri will join Group C winners England in reaching the finals on Monday if they can avoid defeat by Ukraine, who are playing this match in west Germany due to the conflict with Russia in their homeland, as they lead Serhiy Rebrov’s men on goal difference having won the first meeting 2-1 in Milan back in September.

Only a draw in North Macedonia and a 3-1 loss to England left Italy in this vulnerable position as their other results – 4-0 against Malta and 5-2 in Friday’s reverse against the Macedonians – have been more than convincing, and boss Spalletti was also in good form when previewing the crunch BayArena clash.

“The lads are well,” he told reporters. “There’s quality in every department and the potential is great.

“We go to Germany with the knowledge that we can get a result. Some important players have joined back up with us, like (Federico) Chiesa, who know how to make the difference, and we’ve got to know some new elements that can take this national side forward in the future.

“Our attitude must be to play the game the way we have prepared and spoken about it, not only from this week but since we started working together.”

Italy are unbeaten in their last nine meetings with Ukraine yet Spalletti nevertheless pointed to threats like Oleksandr Zinchenko and Mykhailo Mudryk.

“They are strong and powerful in attack,” he warned. “They have players who are in good form in the leagues they play in.

“We’ll have to play as a team and give everything we have. The magnitude of the game tells us that we need to go beyond our capabilities; we want to steal Italians’ hearts and this is the right moment to do it.

“It’s the game to take that step up in quality that allows you to work with more ease.

“We so desperately want this qualification. There have been some difficult moments, but we have earned the right to be in this position. We just need to think about getting a result without having to rely on others.”

Since suffering the San Siro setback Ukraine have won qualifiers against North Macedonia and Malta by two-goal margins to match Italy on 13 points before Monday’s decider.

Former Tottenham striker Rebrov will have Chelsea’s Mudryk back following injury, with Bournemouth defender Illya Zabarnyi and Vitaliy Mykolenko of Everton marshalling the backline.

Girona hotshot Artem Dovbyk will lead the line in Leverkusen, with Italy likely to stick with the strikeforce that thumped North Macedonia last time out: Giacomo Raspadori and Domenico Berardi will link up with Juventus star Chiesa. Davide Frattesi, meanwhile, could come in for Arsenal playmaker Jorginho.


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