NEWS
Sunday September 8 2019
Probable line-ups: Finland v Italy

Lorenzo Pellegrini is expected to start for Italy against Teemu Pukki’s Finland in this evening’s Euro 2020 qualifier, with several defensive changes.

It kicks off at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT) in Tampere.

The Azzurri have a 100 per cent record in Group J and Finland have won their last four in a row with clean sheets, losing only the opener 2-0 to Italy in Udine, with goals from Nicolò Barella and Moise Kean.

Marco Verratti is suspended after three yellow cards in five games, so Stefano Sensi steps in and hopes to continue his impressive form since joining Inter from Sassuolo.

Coach Roberto Mancini hinted Pellegrini will start after scoring off the bench in Thursday’s 3-1 victory in Armenia, but it remains to be seen in what role.

The Roma man can work in a three-man midfield in place of Barella or as part of the trident attack.

Andrea Belotti remains the favourite for the centre-forward role, although Ciro Immobile is ready to push in.

The centre-forward should be flanked by Federico Bernardeschi and either Federico Chiesa or Stephan El Shaarawy, but the Juventus man isn’t entirely sure of his spot either.

There have been suggestions Armando Izzo could replace Alessandro Florenzi to move into more of a three-and-a-half-man defence, with Francesco Acerbi now tipped to stand in for Alessio Romagnoli, providing a more physical presence.

Lazio defender Acerbi was only called up at the last minute to replace injured Giorgio Chiellini.

Finland are in second place and look to be among the favourites for qualification, as a win tonight would put them joint top of the group with Italy.

Their star man is Norwich City striker Pukki, who has been responsible for four of Finland’s last five goals in qualifying.

The two Italy-based players in the Finnish squad are new Brescia goalkeeper Jesse Joronen and Chievo defender Sauli Vaisanen.

However, Lukas Hradecky is the first choice in goal, as the 29-year-old plays for Bayer Leverkusen.

Hradecky will wear the captain's armband in the absence of suspended midfielder Tim Sparv.

Robin Lod’s pace can cause problems, while there could be a change for Lassi Lappalainen, a 21-year-old left-sided attacking winger who is owned by Bologna, on loan to MLS club the Montreal Impact.

Lappalainen and Simon Skrabb both returned to full training yesterday and are fit to potentially start.

Finland (4-4-2): Hradecky; Raitala, Arajuuri, Toivio, Uronen; Lod, Kauko, Kamara, Soiri; Pukki, Tuominen

Italy (4-3-3): G Donnarumma; Izzo, Bonucci, Acerbi, Emerson; Lo Pellegrini, Jorginho, Sensi; Bernardeschi, Belotti, El Shaarawy

Ref: Madden (SCO)