We're now back in what I consider to be probably the most difficult group in the entire Group Stage of Euro 2016, Group E. This game pits Italy against Sweden in what could be another fascinating encounter especially after how the first games of this group eventually panned out. It's essentially wide open.
Italy had a very tough first game on paper against the team ranked 2nd in the FIFA World Rankings, Belgium, but you wouldn't have thought that if you watched the game. Belgium looked out of sorts and the Italians, managed by new Chelsea manager Antonio Conte looked assured and driven. They took their 2 goals very well and made Belgium look very ordinary. Italy base their football on a strong defence but they dispelled fears from before the tournament that they didn't score a lot of goals and as always they could be a genuine threat in this competition.
Sweden had a tough game against the Irish and will consider themselves lucky to have been able to scrape a point! They will need to massively step up if they're to get anything from this game, Zlatan was quiet until his contribution towards the Clark own goal and he needs to be more involved if Sweden are to make their mark. In all honesty, based on that display against the Republic of Ireland, I don't think Sweden are going to even get a point from this game, Italy just look too strong.
It will certainly be an interesting game and I will be looking forward to see if Italy can continue to be as impressive as they were in the last game, if they are, this could well be a great opportunity to go on and not only win the group but go quite far in the competition.
Italy looked like the team of old in their last game, and yes Belgium were poor but that doesn't take away from the quality showed by the Italians, I did back them to win this group before the tournament began and my prediction looks to be spot on at the moment. Italy to win this game and ensure qualification into the knockout phase.
With players on the pitch like Graziano Pelle, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcus Berg and Giorgio Chiellini, it is not a completely absurd notion that the first goal scored in this game could be a headed one. All of these guys are excellent in the air and a major threat in the opposition's box. Both teams will be looking to cross the ball at every opportunity to give one of these guys a clear head at goal.
I do think Sweden will score just because of the threat of Ibrahimovic who will make a big difference in this game, however I think Italy will do enough to win, they're so experienced in international tournaments and that experience will show in this game, without a doubt.
Italy will get an early goal I reckon, meaning that they will likely be winning at half-time and obviously I have backed the Italians to win so they will be winning at full-time. It depends how quickly they come out of the blocks and if Sweden are up for it from the get go, they certainly weren't in the Republic of Ireland game and if they start that slowly this time, they will be punished.
I've backed the Italians to score first and Pelle will be full of confidence after his excellent volley in the last game, also as I said before he will be in and around the box looking to score a header or to just to cause trouble and general mayhem. Italy don't have a lot of goal scorers in the team but in Pelle they have an excellent number 9 that knows exactly where the goal is.
I know I have backed Sweden to score but don't be surprised to see Italy keep a clean sheet. The Italians pride themselves on their rock solid defences and Antonio Conte certainly knows how to organise a mean back line. Then you have to factor in that if Sweden do actually manage to get behind the Italian defence, they have to beat one of the best goal keepers of his generation in Gianluigi Buffon. Buffon has been world class for nearly 16 years and he has so much experience at club and international level, he even won the World Cup with Italy in 2010 so he takes some beating. Italy have a really good chance of completely shutting the Swedes out here.