With the UEFA Nations League set to kick off this week, one match to keep an eye on will be the clash between Italy and Poland on Friday evening in Bologna. The Italians, who failed to make it to the recent World Cup in Russia, are now under the stewardship of former Inter Milan and Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, with the Azzurri looking to turn over a new leaf after a series of disappointments on the international stage.
Mancini looking to kick-start his Italy reign
With Mancini now at the helm of the Italian ship, early results have been mixed, to say the least. Three friendly matches have brought a single victory – against Saudi Arabia – while current world champions France defeated them and Holland (who, like Italy, failed to make it to the World Cup earlier this summer) held them to a draw.
This will be Mancini’s first competitive game in charge and he will want to get off to a flying start. And, with home advantage, it is the Italians who come into this game as the clear favorites to make a winning start to the UEFA Nations League.
Italy is at just -138 to take all three points in front of their own fans, with visitors Poland out at +375 to pick up what would be a surprise victory on the road. A draw is priced slightly lower at +260 and, given the attacking prowess of Poland, is not entirely out of the question.
Poland aims to put disappointing summer behind them
Yet while Italy failed to make it to Russia following a playoff defeat to Sweden, Poland was at the recent World Cup. Unfortunately, the Poles failed to make much of an impression and were one of the first sides to be sent home after losing their Sportsbook two group games to Senegal and Colombia, although they managed to defeat Japan in their final encounter.
As a result, manager Adam Nawalka was dismissed for the incoming Jerzy Brzeczek. He will be taking charge of his first match in Bologna on Friday and with the attack at his disposal should be capable of making a positive start to his tenure.
While it is never easy to try to predict the exact score of a given match, a 1-1 draw in this clash is priced competitively at +600. Poland and Brzeczek can count on one of the most feared strikers on the planet in Robert Lewandowski.
The Bayern Munich hit man is at +200 to get his name on the scoresheet, while you can back him at +500 to score either the first or last goal of the match. With Italy conceding in each match under Mancini thus far, the chances of Poland breaking through a patchy Italian backline look encouraging – both teams to score is at +125.
Italy has upper hand
However, there is no denying that when it comes to the head-to-head record, it is Italy that has the upper hand. In 14 previous meetings between these two countries, Italy has five victories to its credit and Poland three, with six matches ending in a stalemate.
The most recent encounter between the pair was in 2011, which the Italians comfortably won 2-0. A repeat of that scoreline in Bologna on Friday comes in at +600.
A player to watch for the Azzurri is Mario Balotelli. He has been brought back in from the wilderness under Roberto Mancini and is in line to make his first competitive start for Italy since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
It is not like the Nice forward to stay out of the headlines and he could well get on the scoresheet in this clash. Balotelli is at +175 to score at any time during the game, while you can back him at +450 to open the scoring. If you really have confidence in him, the striker is at +1000 to score two goals or more.