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U21 Group B: Italy v Portugal preview

Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio was full of regret after the loss to Sweden and plans changes for the decisive match against a Portugal team looking to build on an opening win.

Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio issues instructions during training
Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio issues instructions during training ©Getty Images

• Italy face Portugal side high on confidence after beating England
• Stefano Sturaro starts three-game ban after red card in loss to Sweden
• Di Biagio says Italy can still "go far" and promises "three or four" changes
• Rui Jorge has studied Italy intensely and predicts stern test
• Injured Ivan Cavaleiro likely to miss out for Portugal

Possible lineups
Italy: Bardi; Zappacosta, Bianchetti, Romagnoli, Biraghi; Cataldi, Viviani, Baselli; Berardi, Belotti, Verdi.
Out: Sturaro (suspended)
Misses next match if booked: Bardi, Bianchetti, Viviani

Portugal: José Sá; Ricardo Esgaio, Paulo Oliveira, Tiago Ilori, Raphael Guerreiro; William Carvalho, Sérgio Oliveira, João Mário, Bernardo Silva; Iuri Medeiros, Ricardo Pereira.
Doubtful: Ivan Cavaleiro (right leg injury)
• Misses next match if booked: João Mário, Bernardo

Luigi Di Biagio, Italy coach
It will be a crucial game and I think that this team can still go far in the competition. We didn't push for a second goal against Sweden with enough determination, and we regret that. This team has always given their all to reach their aims and that will be the same tomorrow. The most important thing is to play as a team as we did in the first half against Sweden.

Highlights: Italy v Portugal in 2004

Regardless of that result, I had already planned to make some changes – three or four – for this game. The team can play [4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3] or switch between them during the game. [Danilo] Cataldi will certainly start and [Francesco] Bardi will be the goalkeeper. Federico's [Bernardeschi] quality is not in doubt but I'll decide tomorrow whether he'll play or not.

I fielded the best team against Sweden, of course, and I'll do the same thing tomorrow because we want to win.

Rui Jorge, Portugal coach
It will come as no surprise to anyone that I watched Italy's game against Sweden but I also watched every single game they played in qualifying. We know exactly how good the Italian squad is and one not-so-good 45 minutes isn't going to change our opinion.

Italy's strength lies in their defensive quality, individually and as a group. They're also a threat on the counterattack and their style of play is extremely efficient against a team like us who like to dominate a game based on ball possession.

We will show the same will to win [as against England], the same ambition and, I hope, play with the same quality. We won our first match and even if we are yet to achieve our goal of qualifying for the Olympic Games, at least it's certain that we'll be fighting for this going into our last group game.

England scored in 17 straight matches but didn't against us; that has to mean something and I don't agree that we struggled defensively. In a competition like this you don't have the time to work on any aspect of your game that isn't up to it; all the preparation was done beforehand.

Qualifying campaign (including play-off)
 P10 W7 D1 L2 F23 A9 (Group 9 winners)
Qualifying top scorer: Andrea Belotti (6)

Portugal: P10 W10 D0 L0 F29 A10 (Group 8 winners)
Qualifying top scorer: Ricardo (5)

Form guide (including friendlies, most recent first)
Italy: LLDWL
Portugal: WLDLW

Senior internationals in squad (caps)

Portugal: William Carvalho (13), João Mário (3), Rafa Silva (3), Raphael Guerreiro (2), Ivan Cavaleiro (2), Paulo Oliveira (1), Ricardo Horta (1), Bernardo Silva (1)

Match fact
•  This will be their 13th match in this competition, the most important being the 1994 final when an Italy side featuring the likes of Fabio Cannavaro, Christian Panucci and Filippo Inzaghi got the better of Portugal's Luís Figo, Rui Costa and João Pinto. Check out the details of this epic final and much more in our extensive match background.