The Italy national football team has enjoyed a fantastic qualifying campaign for the Euro 2020 thus far, winning all of their opening five matches. Sitting at the top of group I on 15 points, a win against Finland will all but secure the Azzurri's spot in the European Championship due to be held next year.
Finland, with their only loss coming against the Italians, is in a healthy position too. All of this makes for an exciting encounter at the Tammela Stadion in Tranmere. Also, it will be intriguing to witness how La Nazionale cope in the absence of midfield metronome, Marco Verratti, who has returned to Paris after becoming ineligible to play against the Finnish.
In this international week, Roberto Mancini is working with an inexperienced group due to the unavailability of Giorgio Chiellini, Mattia De Sciglio, Bryan Cristante, and Lorenzo Insigne. To add to their problems, Marco Verratti is unavailable for Italy's match in Tranmere after picking up a yellow card against Armenia, suspending the midfielder for this game.
Moise Kean, a scorer in this fixture held in March, was omitted from the national squad due to disciplinary issues.
Either Stefano Sensi or Lorenzo Pellegrini is expected to fill Verratti's spot in the Azzurri midfield-three. Jorginho will have the added responsibility on his shoulders to steer his side's tempo against Finland.
Suspensions: Marco Verratti
Rangers holding midfielder Glen Kamara will be tasked to restrain Italy's midfield by cutting off the passing lanes from Jorginho. The last time these sides met, Finland opted for a five-defender system. They are expected to go with the same approach this time as well.
In goal, Bayer Leverkusen's Lukas Hradecky is a guaranteed starter with Leo Vaisanen, Joona Toivio, and Paulus Arajuuri forming the defensive core. In-form striker Teemu Pukki could be supported by Jasse Tuominen in leading Finland's attack.
Finland: Teemu Pukki
The Norwich striker has got off to a flying start this season, scoring five Premier League goals, including strikes against Liverpool and Chelsea. Against the Italians, Pukki would like to add to his tally of four goals in the qualifying stages.
Also, in the absence of injured Chiellini, Azzuri's defence looks shaky with Alessandro Romagnoli failing to impress against Armenia. If Pukki finds optimum service, he could hurt Mancini's side with his consummate finishing skills.
However, for Pukki to flourish against Italy, Finland will have to be solid and allow the 29-year-old to link up well with the others in the attacking third.
After failing to break into the La Nazionale squad in his early days, Jorginho has finally stamped his authority on the Italian midfield alongside Verratti. Once again, the Brazil-born player was pivotal to Roberto Mancini's scheme of things when the Armenians pressed intensely in the opening 30 minutes of the game.
Excelling as a regista, Jorginho provides fluency to Italy's game with his intelligent passes to other midfield outlets in Verratti and Barella. Against Finland, the Chelsea man will have an added responsibility to marshal the midfield in the absence of suspended Verratti.
The Eagle-Owls will set themselves in a compact block, making Jorginho's role to break down the low-lying defence in this game even more crucial.
It is expected that Markku Kanerva will put out a well-drilled defensive unit with defenders patrolling the Italian attacks. Also, Verratti's absence from the midfield will plug the creativity in Mancini's XI.
Still the wide gulf between the two sides will eventually result in Italy taking maximum points out of this game.
Finland 1-3 Italy