Trailing their old rivals by two points in the UEFA Nations League standings, Germany welcome Italy to Monchengladbach on Tuesday, as two European heavyweights convene.
Following draws for both side at the weekend, they wrap up a frantic spell at the start of their respective League A Group 3 campaigns by meeting for the second time in less than a fortnight.
Having posted four successive 1-1 draws – the last three coming in the Nations League – Germany are still seeking a first win in Group 3, and hopes of reaching the competition’s finals as group winners rest on an upturn in fortunes over the next three matchdays.
Yet to make their first appearance in the Nations League finals, Die Mannschaft have some catching up to do after being held by a transitional Italy outfit in Bologna on the opening night and then conceding a late equalising goal at home to England.
On that occasion, versatile wing-back Jonas Hofmann deservedly put Hansi Flick’s side ahead in the second half, before Harry Kane sent Manuel Neuer the wrong way from the penalty spot in the 88th minute.
Conversely, Germany needed to come back from a goal down to draw Saturday’s contest with Euro 2020 opponents Hungary, and another Hofmann strike helped the side who sauntered through World Cup qualifying preserve an unbeaten record now dating back some 12 games.
With Chelsea duo Kai Havertz and Timo Werner again struggling to produce in the final third, despite dominating possession at the Puskas Arena, it was another disappointing result for Flick to absorb: stretching across both his reign and that of predecessor Joachim Low, the Germans have posted just one win from seven away fixtures since the Nations League began in 2018.
This edition’s group stage will conclude in September, when they host Hungary in Leipzig and then tackle England at Wembley, but first Germany could do with taking maximum points against an Italy squad undergoing a sizeable rebuild – and they have gone unbeaten in their last five games against the Italians in all competitions.
In the aftermath of their calamitous attempts at qualifying for Qatar 2022, European champions Italy have shed several of their old guard, to whom coach Roberto Mancini had stayed fiercely loyal despite declining form, and a considerably younger lineup have crept to the top of their Nations League group at the halfway stage.
The Azzurri ground out a goalless draw at Molineux on Saturday evening, in the third game of their packed summer schedule – which kicked off with a humbling defeat to South American counterparts Argentina in the ‘Finalissima’ – and are a point clear of supposed surprise package Hungary in the standings.
Taking a point against England – in a game played before just a few hundred young spectators, due to the chaotic scenes preceding last year’s Euro 2020 final between the two nations – followed a merited draw against Germany at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara and victory over the Hungarians in Cesena.
Mancini’s men remain unbeaten, then, as they head to North Rhine-Westphalia, and some early green shoots can be seen in the former Manchester City manager’s development for the future.
Indeed, only two players who started the final at Wembley last summer featured in the first XI at the weekend, as talented prospects such as Sassuolo pair Davide Frattesi and Gianluca Scamacca start to establish themselves as regulars in the side.
Italy now round off a relatively positive camp by facing Germany for the second time in 10 days, and this time away at Monchengladbach’s Borussia-Park, after the first meeting between the teams earlier this month resulted in the spoils being shared.
Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini opened the scoring for La Nazionale in the 70th minute, but their lead was soon wiped out by Joshua Kimmich, who equalised just three minutes later – this time, though, Mancini will be hoping to spring a surprise and go one better.
Germany Nations League form:
Germany form (all competitions):
Italy Nations League form:
Italy form (all competitions):
We say: Germany 1-0 Italy
While Italy have fared better than many expected at the start of their tricky transition from one generation to the next, they remain unconvincing in the final third and may not get on the scoresheet.
Despite a lacklustre record in the Nations League so far, Germany are further ahead in their development by comparison, and they can find a goal from one of several tried and tested sources up front.