Thursday, June 1, 2023

Prediction: Malta vs Italy

Veselin Trajkovic in Free Soccer Predictions 25 Mar 2023


Verdict: Total away goals under 2.5

Best odds: 11/10

Bookmaker: Unibet

Malta are set to host Italy in the second round of the qualification process leading up to the European Championship next year, within Group C of the region under the football governance of UEFA.


Malta lost the first game of the campaign by 2-1 away in North Macedonia. Elif Elmas (66′) and Darko Churlinov (72′) had already done the damage when Yannick Yankam (88′) pulled one back for Michele Marcolini’s team, bringing nothing more than mild consolation at the Arena Tose Proeski in Skopje. The fact that they held out for over an hour should also be mentioned here.

This match will be played at the 17,000-seat venue officially called Grawnd Nazzjonali (National Stadium), also referred to as Ta’ Qali, about five miles west of the centre of Malta capital Valletta.

Being one of those teams that nobody expects to qualify for major tournaments, and one of those that never have, Malta rarely feel any pressure at the international stage in terms of results, aiming still to do the best they can and if possible, improve their performances compared to previous campaigns.

They are firmly in the lowest region of the UEFA Nations League, having finished the most recent edition of the competition second to Estonia in League D Group 2, with only San Marino below. In the World Cup qualifications, they finished bottom of Group H, having faced Croatia, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Cyprus.

Team News

Yankam came in off the bench eight minutes before he scored against North Macedonia, and the Birkirkara midfielder will be hoping coach Marcolini names him to start this time. The change could be made to accommodate him at the expense of an attacker, to allow a shift from the 3-4-1-2 setup used in Skopje to a more defensive 5-3-1-1 against the reigning European champions.

Defender Enrico Pepe, Yankam’s club teammate, and  Valletta midfielder Triston Caruana, are set to miss out through injury.

Henry Bonello should be in goal again, with the centre-back trio of Cain Attard, Steve Borg and Ferdinando Apap flanked by Ryan Camenzuli and Joseph Mbong. The latter two are expected to play more defensively than in Skopje, as a part of the back line, rather than push up the pitch in the manner of wing-backs. Providing his wish is granted, Yankam will join Bjorn Kristensen and Matthew Guillaumier in the middle of the park, while Teddy Teuma supports Alexander Satariano.

This setup would obviously see Paul Mbong, who started alongside Satariano in Skopje, demoted to the bench.


It was certainly a great shock, not only for themselves, but for the rest of the football world as well when the team that had won the European Championship a year earlier failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar. Roberto Mancini has been spared the shame of sacking for the time being, but his team simply cannot afford such a fiasco again.

And it didn’t start well for the Azzurri this time either. They faced England at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in Naples on Thursday, and just like Malta in Skopje, they went two goals down through West Ham midfielder Declan Rice (13′) and Tottenham Hotspur star Harry Kane (44′), the latter converting from the spot, before Mateo Retegui pulled one back (56′).

Interestingly enough, Italy and England met not only in the final at the last Euros, but also in League A Group 3 of the Nations League, which the Azzurri won and the Three Lions finished last, suffering relegation to League B.

With England playing top-class football in recent years, the defeat at their hands, even in Naples, can be understood to an extent. But there would be no way to explain coming back from Malta with anything but three points as the reward for a comprehensive win, of course.

Team News

While any result that isn’t a win in this game would be inexcusable under any circumstances, it’s only fair to say that Mancini has a large number of players absent through injury. Forwards Ciro Immobile, Giacomo Raspaduri and Federico Chiesa, defenders Leonardo Bonucci, Alessandro Bastoni and Federico Dimarco, as well as midfielder Nicolo Barella, are all unavailable.

The situation means that Retegui is very likely to keep his place upfront, flanked this time by Mateo Politano and Wilfried Gnonto. In the middle of the park, Marco Veratti and Bryan Cristante should be joined by Sandro Tonali, with Giovani Di Lorenzo and Leonardo Spinazzola flanking centre-backs Alessio Romagnoli and Giorgio Scalvini. Gianluigi Donnarumma will, of course, be the man between the posts.


Given what we’ve seen from Italy against England, their victory over Malta, though very likely to come, probably won’t be as comfortable as they would like it to be. Barring a case of an early red card for the hosts, one or two goals should do the trick.

Verdict: Total away goals under 2.5

Best odds: 11/10

Bookmaker: Unibet


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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