Kevin De Bruyne, Chelsea’s divisive midfielder Jorginho and flying full-back Leonardo Spinazzola make the cut in our Belgium v Italy combined XI… but who joins the Man City maestro and Romelu Lukaku in attack?
- It’s a super-heavyweight clash for a place in Euro 2020 last four – Belgium v Italy
- Both sides impressed during the group stage and secured narrow wins in last 16
- Belgium and Italy are full of talent but who makes Sportsmail’s combined XI?
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here
It’s a super-heavyweight clash for a place in the last four of Euro 2020. Belgium face Italy in Munich in what promises to be an enthralling encounter.
Both sides impressed during the group stage and secured narrow victories to reach the quarter-finals of the competition.
Roberto Martinez’s side and Roberto Mancini’s outfit are jam-packed with talent but who makes the cut in Sportsmail’s combined XI ahead of kick-off tonight?
Roberto Martinez’s (left) side and Roberto Mancini’s (right) outfit are jam-packed with talent
One of the toughest calls as both Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois and Italy’s Gianluigi Donnarumma are world class in between the sticks.
Both shot-stoppers have conceded just one goal during the tournament and produced important saves when it mattered.
But the Real Madrid and former Chelsea goalkeeper gets the nod after an imperious display against the reigning European champions Portugal in the previous round.
Courtois and his Belgium team-mates kept out a star-studded attack to seal a 1-0 victory.
Courtois has an impressive save percentage of 90.9 per cent while Donnarumma’s stands at 80 per cent with the Belgian pulling off 10 saves compared to the Italian’s four.
Belgium No 1 Thibaut Courtois has an impressive save percentage of 90.9 per cent
The Borussia Dortmund full back is deployed as a right wing back by Martinez and he has been a persistent threat in the two matches he’s played. He’s scored one goal, supplied two assists and won four tackles.
Meunier was omitted from the starting XI for Belgium’s group opener with Timothy Castagne selected ahead of him.
The Leicester defender, however, was ruled out of Euro 2020 after suffering a double fracture to his eye socket in Belgium’s 3-0 win over Russia.
But Meunier has seized his chance and, although he did not start in what was effectively a dead-rubber against Finland, he has been an influential outlet down Belgium’s right flank.
The 29-year-old is as comfortable going forward as he is heading towards his own goal and gives Martinez’s side another dimension.
Meunier pips Italy’s Giovanni Di Lorenzo to the right-back spot with the 27-year-old overshadowed by his team-mate Leonardo Spinazzola on the opposite side.
Belgium right back Thomas Meunier (right) has scored one goal and supplied two assists
Italy have an intimidating defence with Leonardo Bonucci at the heart of it.
The 34-year-old has been the third most-used Italy player this summer, playing a pivotal role in conceding just one goal in four matches.
Bonucci stepped up in the absence of Giorgio Chiellini but he will be buoyed by his club team-mate returning for the Belgium showdown.
The pair understand each other’s games so well with both Juventus and Italy reaping the rewards.
Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld ran Bonucci close after a phenomenal display in keeping out Cristiano Ronaldo and Co last week.
Italy have an intimidating defence with Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci at the heart of it
At 36 the Juventus centre half is as commanding as ever in the Italian back four. The skipper certainly leads from the front and leaves everything out on the pitch.
He played a pivotal role in Italy’s comfortable 3-0 win over Turkey in their Group A opening clash and thought he had broken the deadlock in their second match, only for his effort to be ruled out by VAR for handball in the build-up.
Moments after his goal was chalked off the talismanic captain walked off injured, ruling him out of Italy’s final group game and their last-16 tie against Austria.
Juventus duo Chiellini and Bonucci have struck up a formidable partnership for both club and country and the former was sorely missed in the round-of-16 2-1 extra-time victory at Wembley.
Yes, Chiellini has not featured regularly at this tournament but he’s set to return to the team tonight and his influence on Mancini’s side is massive.
Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen are solid performers for Belgium but their impact is inferior in comparison to their Italian counterpart.
Giorgio Chiellini is set to return to the Italy side for the quarter-final clash against Belgium
One of the easiest decisions to make with the Roma defender enjoying a fine campaign so far.
The 28-year-old produced a man-of-the-match display in Italy’s victory over Turkey to kick the tournament off.
He has the licence and freedom to bomb forward in Mancini’s system and is a constant danger in the final third.
Pundit Rio Ferdinand was impressed at how comfortable he looked on the left-hand side despite being right-footed following Italy’s 3-0 win.
‘I thought he was fantastic,’ he told the BBC. ‘I saw him against Manchester United [in the Europa League] and they were lucky he came off injured. He is an outlet, he is always high up the pitch.
‘He is released to being almost a left winger when Italy have possession and he controls that left side on his own. He’s so comfortable in doing it, he is a right-footed player playing on the left which isn’t normal.
‘He wants to be one versus one, and then it is about your execution and delivery, and invariably he got it right today. Him and Insigne combining is going to cause a lot of teams problems.’
Leonardo Spinazzola produced a man-of-the-match display in Italy’s victory over Turkey
Since being recalled to the starting line-up for Italy’s final group encounter after being on the treatment table, the 28-year-old has strengthened Mancini’s side at both ends of the pitch.
The Paris Saint-Germain diminutive midfielder reads the game well, is composed and complements Jorginho.
Former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane was full of praise for Verratti.
‘I’d like to line up with Verratti, I like him,’ he told Micah Richards in their Road to Wembley series for Sky Bet.
‘Not the quickest but his passing and receiving skills, maybe us next to each other wouldn’t be ideal because I’d be trying to do the same things as him, but I like him.’
Verratti typically lines up on the left of Italy’s midfield but he is good enough to play anywhere in a midfield three and pips Belgium’s Youri Tielemans to the spot.
Marco Verratti (right) has strengthened Roberto Mancini’s side since coming back from injury
The Chelsea midfielder has started all of Italy’s matches with Mancini having complete faith in him to execute his gameplan.
The midfielder’s work sometimes goes unnoticed as his importance to Italy’s play slips under the radar.
Jorginho has split opinion during his time at Stamford Bridge but he played a key role under Thomas Tuchel last season and was a significant figure in their Champions League success in May.
He has continued that form into the summer and has played an impressive 293 passes and created five chances at the tournament so far.
His performances led to compatriot Lorenzo Insigne insisting he should be in the running for the Ballon d’Or.
Jorginho edges out Belgium’s Axel Witsel in this team following some excellent displays.
Chelsea’s Jorginho has started all of Italy’s matches and his passing stats are impressive
Brother Eden has been accustomed to featuring in the best starting XIs in the past but he has been eclipsed by Thorgan this summer.
The Borussia Dortmund winger has scored two goals at Euro 2020 including the superb swerving strike to seal victory over Portugal last Sunday.
The 28-year-old has always been in his sibling’s shadow but he is stepping out of the darkness now and proving he can do it on the big stage.
Hazard pips Manuel Locatelli to the left midfield position even though the Italian has also notched two goals.
The 23-year-old Sassuolo midfielder played Italy’s first two group games but was replaced by Verratti for the next two.
Thorgan Hazard (centre) scored superb swerving strike to seal win over Portugal last Sunday
Kevin De Bruyne
The Manchester City midfield maestro has delivered this summer, notching one goal, supplying two assists and creating an impressive 10 chances for his team-mates.
The 30-year-old missed Belgium’s first group win over Russia after fracturing his eye socket in the Champions League final defeat by Chelsea but he has left his mark since returning to the side.
Martinez has been left sweating on his fitness after he picked up an ankle problem in the Portugal victory.
De Bruyne is the first name on the team sheet here and for Belgium and they’ll need him if they want to reach the semi-finals.
As expected Kevin De Bruyne has been vital for Belgium but is in race against time for tonight
The Inter Milan striker has carried his form from his club’s title-winning season into Euro 2020.
The 28-year-old has bagged three goals from nine shots and created four chances as he’s led the line for Belgium.
Italy defender Francesco Acerbi claimed Lukaku is ‘more difficult to mark than Ronaldo’ ahead of tonight’s clash while the striker himself has insisted he is ‘world class’ and on the same level as Poland star Robert Lewandowski and England captain Harry Kane.
Lukaku failed to bag a goal in the last-16 tie against Portugal but he has been at the top of his game so far. His performances mean Italy’s No 9 has to play out of position in this team.
The Belgian forward is just two goals behind Ronaldo in the race for the Golden Boot, so watch out Italy!
Romelu Lukaku has carried his form from Inter Milan’s title-winning season into Euro 2020
As already mentioned Italy’s striker Ciro Immobile has been forced out wide to get into this starting XI but he’s too good to be left out altogether.
The Lazio frontman scored 25 goals and provided eight assists in 41 appearances for his club last campaign and he has picked up where he left off.
The 31-year-old has notched two goals and supplied one assist in Italy’s four matches.
His ability to score and create sees him edge out his compatriot Lorenzo Insigne, just as the Napoli forward has found the target and played a key role in the final third, as well as Belgium’s Eden Hazard.
Hazard is a doubt for tonight’s showdown after sustaining a hamstring issue last weekend and he is yet to to hit his peak.
Italy striker Ciro Immobile has notched two goals and supplied one assist in Italy’s four games
Sportsmail’s combined Belgium v Italy combined XI ahead of their showdown in Munich
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article