Decisions to be made for Italy

Nicolò Barella and Federico Chiesa are some of the doubts to start for Italy against Northern Ireland in tomorrow’s opening 2022 World Cup qualifier.

It kicks off on Thursday at 19.45 GMT at the Stadio Tardini in Parma.

Inter players Nicolò Barella, Stefano Sensi and Alessandro Bastoni only arrived today, as they were in the Inter ‘bubble’ following a COVID outbreak at the club.

Of the three, only Barella would be expected to start anyway, but he may well be rested ahead of the next games against Bulgaria on Sunday and Lithuania next Wednesday.

RAI Sport suggest Barella is bound to be picked nonetheless in a midfield with Marco Verratti and Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli, although other alternatives include Lorenzo Pellegrini and Sensi.

These are all 2022 World Cup qualifiers and the Azzurri want to maintain the momentum they had throughout 2020.

Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne seem locked in upfront.

Federico Chiesa is another player who could be dropped in favour of Domenico Berardi on the right, preserving the Juventus man for the other tougher fixtures.

It is going to above all be a physical battle, so Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are the favourites to take the central defensive roles.

Moise Kean, Bryan Cristante and Jorginho are all out of the Italy squad.

Italy (probable): G Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Locatelli, Verratti, Barella; Berardi, Immobile, Insigne