Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
Italy V England. 7:45PM. ITV 1
Having started 2015 with a comfortable 4-0 win over Lithuania at Wembley, England’s next test sees them face a very capable Italy in Turin.
There might not be any points at stake, but this could form an important stage of the Euro 2016 preparations, particularly as the Three Lions look to analyse the quality and depth of their squad. Meanwhile, the Italians will be equally eager to test themselves ahead of next summer’s tournament in France.
We should be in for a gripping encounter.
Perfect Eight For England?
England’s recovery mission has started perfectly following last summer’s dismal display in Brazil, but the trip to Turin easily forms Roy Hodgson’s hardest challenge of 2014/15.
To make things even more difficult, the Three Lions have been hit with a number of injuries since Friday’s Euro 2016 qualifying win over Lithuania. The likes of Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling and James Milner have withdrawn. On a brighter note, those absentees may afford Harry Kane a first international start.
The Tottenham star’s fairytale season continued with a debut goal after just 80 seconds on Friday night and he’ll be eager to impress against much stronger opposition. Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney is now just two goals shy of Bobby Charlton’s record and the England skipper would love to increase his tally of seven in seven since inheriting the armband.
England have shown a degree of resilience since their awful World Cup, but this test could show Hodgson exactly where his side stands right now. As far as non-competitive matches go, this is quite significant. Expect passion and pride from the Lions.
Pirlo Absence Could Disrupt Azzurri
England aren’t the only side with absences as Antonio Conte contends with the omission of star man Andrea Pirlo. The remarkable regista has dominated the last two competitive matches against Hodgson’s England and the Italians will inevitably find it tougher without their playmaker.
Additionally, the visitors will be relieved to see no Mario Balotelli – who has also had a big say in each of the past two competitive encounters. However, the hosts still boast a fantastic side with the likes of Marco Verratti, Giorgio Chiellini, and Gianluigi Buffon providing a particularly skilled spine.
There’s also a lot of relatively new faces in the squad, particularly up top, and those players will be eager to prove their worth against decent opposition. Saturday’s 2-2 draw in Bulgaria will have disappointed and the Juventus Stadium crowd will demand a much better showing.
Conte will experiment but is equally determined to grab the win. We should be in for an explosive contest.
Italy V England Betting
The bookies believe that home advantage will give Italy the edge, with Bet365 pricing Gli Azzurri at 7/5. Meanwhile, both the draw and England win can be backed at 11/5.
England have rebuilt some self-esteem over the past few months and the team looks in good shape as Hodgson starts to put the pieces together ahead of next year’s tournament. Despite the notable injuries, there is no reason the Three Lions can’t leave Turin with a positive result.
The media focus might be on England’s omissions but the Italian absences are just as, if not more, crucial. England won the last friendly meeting between the two, back in 2012, and should fancy their chances in Turin.
Draw no bet: England @ 11/8 with SkyBet
The attention will be on Harry Kane, especially if the Spurs man is rewarded with a first start, but there is absolutely no doubt that Wayne Rooney remains England’s key.
Rooney has been inspired since becoming captain and we’re backing him to pose a real threat once again here. At 23/10 to score anytime, we simply can’t refuse.
Wayne Rooney to score anytime @ 23/10 with Ladbrokes