ALEX CROOK

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

ALEX CROOK PREVIEW: England v Italy

talkSPORT’s chief football correspondent ALEX CROOK previews England’s meeting with Italy in a crucial EURO 2024 qualifier on Tuesday…


Memories of Italy’s last visit to Wembley and their penalty shootout triumph in the final of the delayed 2020 European Championships still makes England fans break in a cold sweat.

Gareth Southgate’s side will have the opportunity to exact their revenge on Tuesday night, when victory over the once-mighty Azzuri will rubber-stamp their place in Germany next summer.

England warmed up for this game with a timid and toothless display in their 1-0 win over Australia on Friday when Ollie Watkins delivered a profit for this column by scoring the only goal.

It is unlikely too many, if any, of the fringe players who started that game will have done enough to force their way into the starting line-up for this one, so Southgate will bring back the big guns including captain Harry Kane.

England are on an impressive run of 12 successive victories in home European championship qualifiers while Italy have gone 22 games since being beaten on the road in qualifying matches.

Something has to give and England were more impressive than the slender nature of their 2-1 victory in Rome at the start of the group phase suggests.

The visitors are still in the rebuilding process after missing out on a place in the last two World Cups and are lacking the superstar names who have pulled on the famous blue shirts in their glorious past.

They have also lost Premier League duo Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo and Juventus midfielder Nicolo Fagioli due to their part into a police investigation into illegal betting, which is far from ideal preparation for such a huge clash.

Given that home advantage under the arch at Wembley, I think Southgate’s side are a good bet to complete the double and seal qualification in style.

Italy and Ukraine are the only teams who have managed to penetrate the Three Lions’ stubborn defence over the course of the qualifying campaign and they haven’t conceded a goal at fortress Wembley since beating Switzerland 2-1 in a friendly in March 2022.

That resilience at the back coupled with Italy’s lack of stardust makes England to win to nil at 29/20 with starsports.bet the value play for me.

A fully refreshed and firing Harry Kane is 16/5 with starsports.bet to open the scoring or 6/5 to score at any time.

Kane has started his Bayern Munich career in brilliant fashion and is an obvious danger man, but Jude Bellingham has made an even greater first impression on Real Madrid fans by plundering 10 goals in his first 10 starts for the Spanish giants.

Bellingham was England’s standout player in last month’s easy friendly win over Scotland at Hampden Park and clearly has confidence oozing through his veins at this moment.

He was also rested for Friday night so will be full of energy in that number ten role in behind Kane.

Birmingham’s finest has already come up with some big goals in big moments for Real so I will be playing Bellingham to score first at 7/1 with starsports.bet and having a saver on Bellingham to score at any time at a very generous 3/1.

ALEX CROOK

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BACK England to win to nil 2pts at 29/20 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
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BACK Jude Bellingham to score at any time 1pt at 3/1 (⭐ ? CLICK TO BET NOW)


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