England v Italy preview
Three Lions and Azzurri setting their sights on the semi-finals
Last Updated: June 24, 2012 10:49pm
England and Italy arrived at Euro 2012 free of expectation, but they meet in the quarter-finals on Sunday believing that this could be their year.
Both sides progressed out of testing groups and see no reason why they cannot book a date with much-fancied Germany in the last four.
England topped Group D to reach this stage, preserving Roy Hodgson's unbeaten record as national coach in the process -with four wins and a draw taken from five fixtures to date.
Hodgson's early success has been based on making his side as difficult to beat as possible, with greater emphasis placed on the need to be solid at the back and defend as a collective unit.
Italy's footballing philosophy is much the same as that of a man who has taken in two spells with Serie A giants Inter Milan during a globe-trotting coaching career.
It has been suggested that the two sides will cancel each other out, with the fear of losing set to outweigh the desire to attack and take the game by the scruff of the neck.
Past meetings between the two countries suggest it will be a tight affair, with all but one of the last nine encounters having ended all square or been settled by the odd goal.
Unfortunately for England, they have emerged victorious in just one of those outings.
The Three Lions' record in quarter-final clashes is also not the best, having lost seven out of 10, and they are looking to grace a major semi-final for the first time in 16 years.
Italy will be hoping to pile more misery on their success-starved opponents this weekend, and in Cesare Prandelli they boast a coach who is yet to taste defeat in 13 competitive matches in charge of the Azzurri.
Having made it this far with a settled side, Hodgson is expected to keep faith with those who have served England well.
All 23 members of the squad are fit and in contention for a starting berth, but it is likely that the same XI which started the Three Lions' final group game against Ukraine will take to the field in Kiev.
That means James Milner's abilities going backwards will once again be favoured over Theo Walcott's going forward, and Danny Welbeck will get the nod ahead of Andy Carroll in the battle to partner Wayne Rooney up front.
Skipper Steven Gerrard is among those one caution away from missing a possible semi-final date through suspension, with Ashley Cole, Ashley Young, Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also walking a disciplinary tightrope.
Italy have nine players looking to steer clear of the referee's notebook, with enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli, captain Gianluigi Buffon and combative midfielder Daniele De Rossi aware that they must tread carefully.
It remains to be seen whether Balotelli will be offered the opportunity to line up against a number of his Manchester City colleagues from the start, with Prandelli announcing that he will not name his team until an hour before kick-off.
It is expected that Thiago Motta will be in contention for a starting role, with the midfielder having overcome a hamstring injury.
Giorgio Chiellini is still nursing a thigh problem, though, and his place is expected to go to Juventus team-mate Leonardo Bonucci.
Possible starting XIs
England: Hart, Johnson, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Milner, Gerrard, Parker, Young, Rooney, Welbeck.
Italy: Buffon, Abate, Bonucci, Barzagli, Balzaretti, Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi, Motta, Cassano, Balotelli.