It will be a win or win game for Roberto Mancini’s men at Reggio Emilia’s Mapei Stadium on November 15 as Italy are one point off table leaders Poland. Robert Lewandowski will be the main threat.
The 32-year-old has only scored two of Poland’s five goals in the Nations League and that’s because he’s only played two games in the competition so far. Lewa made his season Nations League debut against Italy last month as he missed the first three games of the group stage in September given that he had just won the Champions League with Bayern Munich and, at that time, he was enjoying some deserved time off.
As tradition wants, Italy have had impressive defensive performances so far with only two goals conceded in four games. On the other hand, they only managed three goals but they are enough to keep their qualification hopes alive. Poland have also conceded two goals in four games but are the best attacking force in the group.
Roberto Mancini’s men, however, did nullify the Bayern Munich striker last month in Gdansk when the hosts held Italy to a stalemate draw. Leonardo Bonucci and Francesco Acerbi started that game at the back with Emerson Palmieri and Alessandro Florenzi on their flanks.
The Juventus and Lazio defender, who faced each other this past weekend in a 1-1 draw at Roma’s Stadio Olimpico, controlled the experienced forward who only had a couple of clear-cut chances. Emerson did also help the defensive duo with a last-gasp tackle that prevented him from going one-to-one with Gigio Donnarumma in the first half.
Mancini could field a similar defensive unit in the return leg as Giorgio Chiellini is out of action with an injury, as are Alessio Romagnoli and Angelo Ogbonna. The Milan and West Ham defenders had been called up by Mancini, but he was forced to replace them on Monday with Inter’s Alessandro Bastoni and Sassuolo’s Gian Marco Ferrari, whereas Milan’s Davide Calabria has earned his first senior Italy-call up.
If the Azzurri pull off a win, they’d need to do the same three days later when they will travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina for the last game of the group stage. Italy are the only unbeaten team in their group which also includes The Netherlands.
Both sides have extra motivations to qualify for the next stage as, whoever goes through, will then be likely to be chosen as the host country for the final four stage. If Italy progress, the semi-finals and finals will be played at Milan’s Giuseppe Meazza and Turin’s Allianz Stadium.
That’s a significant prize, and stopping Lewandowski is half the battle for the Azzurri.