England’s Young Lions are on the brink of reaching the semi finals of the Under-21 European Championships but Gareth Southgate’s side are yet to hit top gear.
A 1-0 defeat to Portugal in their opener was followed by a fortunate 1-0 win over Sweden and Southgate’s side will secure progression to the knock-out stages by avoiding defeat against Italy.
Here’s where the game will be won or lost against the Azzurrini:
Harry Kane needs to come alive
The Spurs striker has been linked with a £50m switch to Manchester United after smashing 30 goals for Tottenham but after two goalless performances in the Czech Republic that fee could yet shrink.
Kane has cut a forlorn figure in a lone striker role but the introduction of Danny Ings to the starting line-up could see Kane finally come alive against Italy.
Italy are winless in four games and have kept just one clean sheet in 11 matches. If Kane can’t score here England are in trouble.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek needs to start
The Chelsea starlet showed more pace and attacking intent in his cameo appearance against the Swedes than any of the players given a starting berth so far.
He was involved in the thick of the action, putting Danny Ings through for what should have been a penalty and had a hand in winning the corner which eventually led to Jesse Lingard’s spectacular winner.
Tom Carroll has struggled to impose himself on games so far and should make way for the Blues man if the Young Lions are to go through with a win.
John Stones to shore up the defence
Everton man Stones missed the win over Sweden with concussion but is expected to return to the starting line-up for this crunch encounter.
Liam Moore and Ben Gibson have looked fragile at times but with Stones back in contention Southgate’s men could record a second consecutive shut-out.
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