Date: September 4, 2014
Venue: Stadio Cominale San Nicola, Bari, Italy
Kick off time: 19:45 hours BST
Italy will face Netherlands in a high profile international friendly game in Bari on Thursday as both teams embark on exciting times ahead under new regimes.
While former Juventus manager Antonio Conte has been handed the reins of the Azzuris, vastly experienced Dutch coach Gus Hiddink has taken over the Dutch national team after their successful third placed finish at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. With quite a few regular internationals such as Arjen Robben and Mario Balotelli unavailable for action in the upcoming friendly, the new bosses will have plenty of opportunities to experiment when the two teams clash on Thursday.
Italy’s form: D-D-W-L-L
Italy had a poor World Cup under their former coach Cesare Prandelli, who saw his team exit the tournament at the first time of asking. Italy went down to Costa Rica and Uruguay after their win against England, but it was not enough to propel them into the round of 16.
Their form going into the tournament was not enviable either with the four time world champions having drawn against the likes of Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg in the run up.
Conte has had a successful three years with Juventus before he assumed the responsibility of the Italian team. The former Juve midfielder made the 3-5-2 his preferred formation at the Bianconeri and the team won the Serie A three times in a row under his watch. Conte is a highly rated young manager and Italy are in luck to have a man of his ilk in charge.
Netherland’s form: W-W-D-D-W
While Netherlands breezed through the group stage of the world cup, the Oranje won narrowly against an impressive Mexico at the round of 16. Although they did not manage to hit the back of the net against Costa Rica, the Netherlands won the game on penalties.
However, they were beaten by Argentina in the semis in a shoot-out. The Oranje defeated Brazil 3-0 in the third place play-off match to come back home having achieved the goals that were set out for them before the start of the tournament.
It is thought that Hiddink will revert to a 4-3-3 and ditch Louis Van Gaal’s 3-5-2 blue print which gave them some success. Hiddink is a purist and he will look to stick to the traditions of Dutch football. He has some of the best players in the world at his disposal and it remains to be seen whether he can be a success with the national team.
Italy: Ciro Immobile
The forward had transferred to Borussia Dortmund on the eve of the world cup after a good season in Serie A last year. With Balotelli not in the team for this next match, Immobile will be given the chance to show what he can do and the general feeling is that Immobile is one man who can flourish under Conte’s philosophy.
Netherlands: Robin van Persie
The Netherlands skipper has lost some pace alright, but he has had a good world cup. His slow start to the season has coincided with Manchester United going ahead and signing Radamel Falcao on deadline day. He has dismissed doubts over a knee injury thereafter and will be determined to score as many goals as possible for his side on Thursday.
With the two teams so evenly matched, a draw is good bet at 3.2 (bet365) while the staunchly defensive Italian side point to less than 2.5 goals in the game (1.6 at BetVictor).