This is a game that definitely means more to one team than the other, whether that will play a part in how the game pans out is anyone's guess but it certainly wouldn't shock me. Italy are already through and as group winners because they beat Belgium, whereas the Republic of Ireland need a win to keep their hopes alive. Antonio Conte has already said that he will be fielding some fringe players so the Republic will be seeing this as an opportunity to get a result and either qualify in 2nd place if Belgium lose to Sweden or as a 3rd placed team with 4 points if Belgium beat Sweden.
Italy have been sublime in this tournament especially in their first game. I remember talking about how impressive the Italians have always been at defending and they have shown that class yet again this tournament with 2 clean sheets from 2 games. They completely nullified Belgium and restricted them to half chances which is some feat considering the amount of firepower Belgium have at their disposal. It took a late goal for them to sink Sweden but they're doing enough when it needs to be done and I am seriously beginning to tout them as dark horses to win these championships outright.
Republic of Ireland will be very disappointed with their overall display at these championships. Their first game against Sweden should have resulted in a victory for them but they lost concentration and allowed the Swedes back in, much to assistant manager Roy Keane's annoyance. In the second game they actually looked good for at least a draw at half time and then they came out for the second half and were completely blown away by Belgium. As good as Belgium were in that second half, the Republic were just as bad in comparison. If they are to get anything from this game then they need to improve in all areas of the pitch. Stop making Shane Long so isolated and pick their passes better, they also need to get the ball out to the impressive Seamus Coleman a lot more.
Even though Italy have nothing to play for an will put out some fringe players, I think they'll walk this game. Partly because of how impressive they have been and Conte has them playing, partly because of how bad the Republic of Ireland have been throughout the tournament and partly because these so called 'fringe players' would probably still walk into Ireland's team any day of the week. Sorry Irish fans but I think it's going to be another group stage knockout for you.
Italy could win this game 3-0 but they haven't been particularly high scorers in qualifying or the finals themselves, that's why this is an outside punt but the way Ireland have been defending and the confidence that Italy will surely have could contribute to an absolute drubbing that could have the Irish FA looking seriously at the futures of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane.
The thing about this game is that the Republic of Ireland have struggled to score goals against defences that are far superior to the Italians, and even if the Italians field fringe defenders, those defenders would all be the best defender in the Irish squad by a mile if they had been born in Cork instead of Turin. I really think this will be like an exhibition game for the Italians.
Republic of Ireland did well to keep Belgium out in the last game by playing on the counter attack and waiting for an opening. They won't be able to do this against Italy because they won't leave any gaps and Ireland will need to be a lot more attacking if they want to win this game, ironically exposing themselves to Italian counter attacks.
Insigne has pace to burn and was once touted as the next wonderkid for Italy. That never really worked out but now at the age of 25 he is getting game time for Napoli and scoring goals with his best goal scoring season coming this year with 13 goals in 32 games for the Italian side. He hasn't featured yet which is why I think Conte will give him some game time.
Most bookies offer a points score for the amount of yellow and red cards that are awarded in a game. Italy and Ireland are both teams that are not afraid to throw in a tackle and Ireland desperately need to win. I can see this game getting quite heated due to how much Ireland need the victory and also if Italy are through on goal and a professional foul needs to be committed, you can bet John O'Shea or one of the other boys will take one for the team.