Two key stars won’t be in action, but Italy and Portugal both have much to gain when they meet Tuesday in Geneva in an international friendly. The Italians will miss keeper Gianluigi Buffon, while Portugal will be without forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
Italy head coach Antonio Conte will have the chance to upend the Portuguese to build momentum for the European Championship. The Azzurri won’t square off against the Real Madrid superstar, who was allowed to leave the squad on vacation after an impressive hat trick against Armenia last week. Portugal would win 3-2 and maintain first in Group I.
It’s a bit of a break for the Italians after coming up with a strong 1-1 draw with Croatia, putting them only two points back in second place in Group H. This squad has played well under Conte, earning five victories and four draws since he replaced Cesare Prandelli after last year’s World Cup.
“This is our last game of the campaign,” Italy striker Ciro Immobile said. “We want to do well. The game against Portugal is important because we have not lost under Conte. We want a win against Portugal.
“We are doing a good job in qualifying and we played well against Croatia.”
Nevertheless, Conte’s side will have to contend without the services of the legendary Buffon. The 37-year-old injured his right knee against Croatia last week and had previously battled elbow problems. Salvatore Sirigu is expected to step in for Italy. After totaling 72 saves in 34 appearances for Paris Saint-Germain this term, the 28-year-old Sirigu will earn his 14th cap.
Ronaldo’s absence will perhaps allow manager Fernando Santos to shake up his starting IX and see how the squad flies without its best player. Portugal will likely lean on veteran forward Eder, as well as midfielders Ricardo Quaresma and Nani, but there are some younger, budding players who could use some more experience against a top squad like Italy. There’s midfielders Adrian Silva, 26, with only three caps, and Danilo Pereira with one.
Kickoff Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: beIN Sports
Live stream: beIN Sports Connect