WWe can look at tonight’s game in San Siro, England’s first visit to Milan since 1939, in two ways. The most important and obvious is that it is their penultimate game before they open their World Cup campaign in Al Rayyan on November 21 and they need to find form after those two defeats and two draws in June, matches in which they only one scored. goal (and a penalty) while conceding six.
The other way is that today and Monday’s game against Germany gives them a chance to drag themselves off the bottom of Group 3. That may not seem so important to the increasingly loud critics of the Nations League, but it will save them from a potentially trickier Euro 24 Qualifying Draw and fall back into League B for the Nations League’s third overtime and opponents who may struggle to the kind of sizeable Wembley crowds the FA needs to bridge the funding gap of the Covid base.
Last time England came out, England were humiliated by Hungary at Molineux, the players appearing jaded, confused and typically vulnerable when sent off with a back four. All reports suggest Gareth Southgate will return to tournament mode and will henceforth play an extra centre-back with Harry Maguire, despite his long slump at Manchester United, alongside Eric Dier in line in the absence of the suspended John Stones, with Kyle Walker as the right center half.
There should be a start for Jude Bellingham alongside Declan Rice in midfield and another chance for Aaron Ramsdale in goal, but that should be the scope of the experiment unless Bukayo Saka is preferred to Kieran Trippier on the left wing. Up front Southgate has tried a few things over the past 12 months, but now that time is running out and Ivan Toney is not in the squad, he is expected to return to his standard of Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Phil Foden.
Italy, on the other hand, is experimenting hard after failing to qualify for Qatar. They are trying Brazil-born Luiz Felipe, who qualifies under his Vicenza-born great-grandfather, centre-back, Sassuolo’s running Davide Frattesi in midfield, SPAL’s Salvatore Esposito, Serie B Pirlo and Leeds United’s livewire diddyman ahead. Wilfried Gnonto all in the squad. Some or all may not start, but there is a sense that Mancini, temperamental like most Italian managers, to trust/favor his veterans, is wholeheartedly committed to rebuilding the European champions.
The game starts at 7:45 PM and the team news should fall about 75 minutes earlier.