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USA vs. Italy, 2018 friendly: Italy Scouting Report

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An Italian team missing many regulars could still challenge the USMNT

Italy v Portugal - UEFA Nations League A Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team will look to bounce back from a disappointing 3-0 loss to England, as it takes on Italy on Tuesday.

The Italians have been in rather lackluster form themselves and are coming off a 0-0 draw in their UEFA Nations League match against Portugal on Saturday. The Gli Azzurri have a 1-1-3 record in their last five matches and are currently ranked nineteenth in the FIFA World Rankings.

Head coach Roberto Mancini left many first choice players off of this roster, but it still includes stars such as Marco Verratti, Giorgio Chiellini, and Gianlugi Donnarumma.

Update as of 11/18 9:40 EST: After this article was published, a report from mlssoccer.com suggested that Mancini had sent Lorenzo Pellegrini, Ciro Immobile, Jorginho, Alessandro Florenzi, Lorenzo Insigne and Giorgio Chiellini back to their clubs. The report also indicated that he would field a young lineup against the U.S..

Updated Italy Roster:

Goalkeepers (3): Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino)

Defenders (6): Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Mattia de Sciglio (Juventus), Emerson Palmieri (Chelsea/ENG), Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan), Daniele Rugani (Juventus)

Midfielders (5): Nicolò Barella (Cagliari), Roberto Gagliardini (Inter Milan), Stefano Sensi (Sassuolo), Sandro Tonali (Brescia), Marco Verratti (PSG/FRA)

Forwards (6): Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Vincenzo Grifo (1899 Hoffenheim/GER), Kevin Lasagna (Udinese), Leonardo Pavoletti (Cagliari), Matteo Politano (Inter Milan)

Mancini typically deploys a 4-3-3, that resembles a 4-5-1 when Italy is defending. Italy is a well organized team that prioritizes defending. The team’s attack is rather poor, having scored more than one goal only once in ten matches this year.

Updated Projected Lineup:

Original Projected Lineup:

Gianlugi Donnarumma is a talented, but still developing goalkeeper who at just nineteen years old is the #1 for Italy and AC Milan. Donnarumma is an excellent shotstopper, but he is rather slow coming off of his line and needs to improve his distribution.

Look for Leonardo Bonucci to get the nod at centerback. He’s a top Serie A center back who is an excellent 1 v. 1 defender and very comfortable on the ball. While Bonucci is considered an excellent defender, he occasionally struggles with his positioning.

Francesco Acerbi seems to have a good chance to partner Bonucci in central defense. Acerbi has been excellent for Lazio this season and is a dominant aerial presence standing 6’4.’’ He is exceptional at intercepting passes and frequently looks to play long balls out of defense. His only major weakness is that he is a poor dribbler, even for a centerback.

Mancini has several options at right-back, but I’m predicting he gives Mattia de Sciglio the start in order to boost his confidence. De Sciglio has only played 3 matches for Juventus this season, but is an excellent tackler and man-marker.

De Sciglio’s biggest flaw is that he rarely gets involved in the offense and in today’s game, this has become increasingly unacceptable for fullbacks.

Cristiano Biraghi should get the nod at left-back and he has started the team’s last several matches. Biraghi is an excellent crosser and passer, who is nearly two-footed. While he is solid offensively, he overcommits to attacks far too frequently and is a poor tackler.

Look for Roberto Gagliardini to feature as one of the central midfield trio. Gagliardini is a classic #6 who excels at intercepting passes and seemingly never stops running. Additionally, he has a high soccer IQ and wins the vast majority of his aerial duels. His only major weakness is that he commits too many fouls.

Marco Verratti will likely start at central midfield. The PSG man has struggled this season with just 1 assist and 0 goals in 12 appearances, but on his best days he is world-class. Verratti is a world class playmaker and dribbler, who draws many fouls. When he’s on the field, Italy’s attack run through him.

Lorenzo Pellegrini should join Gagliardini in central midfield. Pellegrini is a solid two-way central midfielder who works hard defensively and has an excellent passing range. His biggest flaw is that he doesn’t score as often as he should.

Domenico Berardi is the probable starter on the right-wing. Berardi is an amazing crosser and solid dribbler, but his finishing could be better and he receives far too many cards.

Look for Vincenzo Grifo to get the nod at left-wing. Grifo is a solid crosser and set piece taker, who likes to shoot from distance. However, he puts in little defensive effort and is surprisingly slow for a winger.

Leonardo Pavoletti will likely feature as the lone striker. Pavoletti has been in good form for Cagliari this season, with 8 goals and 1 assist in 12 appearances. He is a prototypical target forward: an elite finisher, strong, and lethal in the air. Pavoletti’s only major weakness is that he is quite slow.

While this Italy squad is not nearly as good as those of previous years, it will deservedly be favored against the USMNT. I’m predicting a 2-0 Italy victory.