Belgium vs. Italy: 50-50 Challenge between Group E favourites
Belgium meet Italy on Monday in Group E of Euro 2016. Both sides might be considered as contenders to win the tournament so this game will be vital in pursuit of top spot in the group
John Chapman (Belgium) and Mina Rzouki (Italy) look ahead to this showdown.
What's at stake here?
John Chapman: Marc Wilmots has said that it won't be a disaster if Belgium lose. His argument is that there will still be six points to play for. He's also said he's going for the win but the noises coming out of the training camp refute that statement. The word is that Wilmots will opt for muscle in midfield with Axel Witsel, Radja Nainggolan and Marouane Fellaini. It does look certain to be a fierce battle with both sides fielding their most experienced players and ignoring youth.
Mina Rzouki: For the first time in years, Italians do not believe in this current Azzurri side. For a group bereft of genuine star quality or a forward capable of scoring on a consistent basis, a win against Belgium, the toughest opponent in Group E, would go a long way in restoring faith and garnering excitement from a downbeat set of fans.
Accused of being a defensive side with no attacking ability, head coach Antonio Conte is desperate to prove he has picked the right men and is tactically adept enough to guide his side to victory against a gifted team who beat Italy 3-1 the last time the two sides faced off.
JC: Toby Alderweireld vs. Graziano Pelle
There has been a lot of talk about Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. Wilmots wanted to keep them at full-back but poor performances by Jason Denayer has meant Alderweireld will play centrally. In Antonio Conte's favoured 3-5-2 for Italy, the main man looks like being Graziano Pelle, a player Alderweireld will know inside-out from their days together at Southampton.
MR: Antonio Candreva vs. Jan Vertonghen
Italy have already identified Belgium's weakness lies in the full-back position and have made it clear they hope to exploit that particular weakness by playing attacking men in the wide roles.
Jan Vertonghen is likely to play in the left-back position for Belgium and will almost surely face Antonio Candreva, a player renowned for his work ethic and ability to drive forward, dribbling at pace to exploit space and create opportunities for his teammates. If Candreva plays in his usual relentless manner, he is capable of overwhelming whomever he faces to facilitate the Azzurri's attacking game.
JC: Eden Hazard
Kevin De Bruyne does not seem to be enjoying his football. That's why the man who could make the difference is Hazard. The captain looks cheerful these days and, on form, he could destroy any team. If he gets among the sometimes ponderous Italian defenders, anything could happen. It is time for the Chelsea man to shine internationally.
MR: Thiago Motta
Italy will be focusing all their attacking efforts in the wide areas and Daniele De Rossi and the men behind him will have their hands full with stopping the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne from scoring. As such, Motta will have a big role to play. While he will be expected to defend, he must also ensure that his team keep pushing up the pitch, so Italy do not fall too deep and surrender to Belgium's attacking talent. By offering a defence-splitting pass or two, he will inspire the forward line and keep the opposing defence busy.
JC: 1-1. It will be a battle royal and honours could end up even as no one wants to lose.
MR: Italy can create opportunities but will struggle to score and with the attacking talent Belgium boast, it's difficult to see past a 1-0 win for Marc Wilmots side.