Austria’s first visit to the knockout phase of the European Championships will be a stern test when they face the in-form Italians at Wembley Stadium.
Saturday’s second game – you can read our Wales vs Denmark preview HERE– provides the Azzurri with another opportunity to show their progress under Roberto Mancini.
The former Manchester City mentor oversaw Italy’s flawless group stage with glee – no goals conceded and three victories have announced them as the team to beat.
And there’s not much good news for the opposition as Italy’s final group stage win – over qualified Wales – came with eight changes. It also earned Mancini’s men their 11th win in a row and extended their undefeated streak to 30 games.
Mancini will need to figure out a defensive replacement for right back Alessandro Florenzi with captain n Giorgio Chiellini also an unlikely starter.
But that’s where the woes end for Italy in looking to present their strongest XI with a real battle for places in midfield and in the attacking trio. Federico Chiesa was brilliant in a rare start and may nudge one of Ciro Immobile, Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne out of the run-on side.
David Alaba, who has played in a number of positions for Austria, is likely to return to centre back in a more defense-minded lineup for this key match.
Austria’s record is woeful in ties between these two sides … since 1960 the Austrians have lost 10 and drawn three matches without a single win. The last fixture – albeit a friendly – was in 2008 and ended in a 2-2 draw.
The winners of this game will face Belgium or defending champions Portugal in the quarter-finals in Munich on 2 July.
This round of 16 match kicks off at 9pm.