England youngsters can maintain feel-good factor in Turin
FA chiefs would have been hoping that a friendly game in Italy could prove a useful barometer to measure how far England’s youngsters have progressed since the World Cup where, of course, the Italians were one of the sides to help send Roy Hodgson’s squad home unfashionably early.
Unfortunately, injuries and probably a fair amount of peer pressure has robbed the England manager of a number of his key players. Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana both missed the easy win over Lithuania and Raheem Sterling has now also returned to Anfield for treatment.
Danny Welbeck, James Milner and Leighton Baines are others who haven’t made the trip to Turin. Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand is the only late call-up so Hodgson will be fielding a largely experimental side against Antonio Conte’s team with Kieran Gibbs, Andros Townsend, Theo Walcott and Ross Barkley among those hoping to be involved.
There’s also a good chance that Harry Kane will start alongside captain Wayne Rooney in attack following his sensational scoring start for the senior side against Lithuania.
The Spurs striker will believe that anything is possible at present and Italy are not the side they once were.
Conte is under immense pressure and is particularly unpopular in Turin, where Juventus fans blame him for causing home favourite Claudio Marchisio to break down with a serious knee injury. The Azzurri are already without old stagers Andrea Pirlo, so often England’s nemesis, and Daniele De Rossi and there is no Mario Balotelli.
But they have won four of the last five matches between the sides if you include that penalty shoot-out at Euro 2012. England haven’t won on Italian soil for more than 50 years, though did beat the Italians in a friendly in neutral Switzerland three years ago.
Italy were lucky to escape with a draw in Bulgaria at the weekend and have struggled to score goals since returning from the World Cup, in contrast to England, so this looks an opportunity for Hodgson’s men to continue the good work even if the opposition is a lot tougher than that they’ve met in recent months.
An England win is 9/4 and both teams to score is 5/6.
The match kicks off at 7.45pm on Tuesday, March 31 at the Juventus Stadium, Turin.