NEWS
Thursday March 25 2021
Line-ups: Italy v N Ireland

Ciro Immobile, Manuel Locatelli, Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Pellegrini start in Italy’s first 2022 World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland.

It kicks off at the Stadio Tardini in Parma at 19.45 GMT.

You can follow all the build-up and action as it happens on the LIVEBLOG.

This is the first Italy game of 2021 and they are unbeaten under coach Roberto Mancini since September 2018, managing 15 wins and seven draws.

That includes a 100 per cent record in Euro 2020 qualifying of 10 wins, scoring 62 goals and conceding 14.

Bryan Cristante and Moise Kean withdrew from the squad due to injury, with Jorginho already ruled out by a knee issue.

As he only arrived yesterday due to being part of the Inter COVID bubble, Nicolò Barella is rested in favour of Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini, with Sassuolo midfielder Locatelli and PSG’s Marco Verratti.

It will be his seventh cap, but it is the first in which Locatelli plays as a central midfielder.

Veterans Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini run the defence, with Alessandro Florenzi rediscovering his form at Paris Saint-Germain.

Lazio hitman Immobile is preferred to Andrea Belotti, flanked by Lorenzo Insigne and Sassuolo’s Domenico Berardi.

This is because Federico Chiesa is preserved for the upcoming games against Bulgaria on Sunday and Lithuania next Wednesday.

Northern Ireland lost Liam Boyce, Conor Washington, Jordan Jones and Nathan Gartside for this trip to Parma, while Jamal Lewis has failed a fitness test.

Josh Magennis therefore partners Gavin Whyte, chosen ahead of former Palermo and Reggina flop Kyle Lafferty, who cut his latest Serie B experience short for a move to Kilmarnock in February.

Italy: G Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Pellegrini, Locatelli, Verratti; Berardi, Immobile, Insigne

Italy bench: Sirigu, Cragno, Di Lorenzo, Spinazzola, Pessina, Belotti, Grifo, Acerbi, Barella, Bernardeschi, Chiesa, G Mancini

Northern Ireland: Peacock-Farrell; Smith, Cathcart, J Evans, Dallas; McNair; C Evans, Davis, McCann; Whyte, Magennis

N Ireland bench: Hazard, Hughes, C McLaughlin, Kennedy, Ballard, Saville, McGinn, Lavery, Lafferty, Ferguson, Thompson, Brown

Ref: Palabiyik (TUR)