Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a player beloved by Italian fans. Having played for all of Italy's three biggest clubs during his illustrious career, followers of the Azzurri will undoubtedly feel a certain degree of fondness towards the big Swede. Nonetheless, as Italy prepare to face off against Sweden in the second round of the group stage of Euro 2016, Italians will be hoping their team can nullify the powerful forward en route to a second win in two matches at the tournament.
Italy surprised many people with a convincing win over Belgium on Monday night, defying the odds to secure a hard-fought 2-0 victory over a strong Belgian side. Italy proved once again that they always deliver on the big occasion. However, the question now is whether or not they can carry this on into the next round of fixtures. Italy were underdogs against Belgium, but against an admittedly poor Sweden side they will be favourites, and a result Antonio Conte might need to vary his approach somewhat.
Some rotation is to be expected, especially given the physically demanding style of play favoured by Conte. The 3-5-2 formation is expected to reappear, however, Milan full back Mattia De Sciglio could replace Matteo Darmian on the left flank. Thiago Motta could be set to replace Daniele De Rossi in the holding midfield position as well, whereas Ciro Immobile could step in to replace Graziano Pelle up front. Reassuringly though, the team will once again be headed by the ever-reliable defensive unit of Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli.
Whereas Italy were impressive in their opening match, Sweden were quite poor against Ireland, labouring to a 1-1 draw that, on the balance of play, they didn't really deserve. Despite Ibrahimovic's undoubted quality, he struggled to influence the match in a meaningful way, and will be looking to set the record straight against the nation he calls his 'second home'. Italy know what to expect from the talismanic striker, though, and will do their utmost to limit him as much as they possibly can. Italy will be expected to win this game, and if their intensity levels match Monday's stellar performance, they will. A win here would put the Azzurri firmly in control of the group and would secure them progression to the knockout round if Belgium beat Ireland. Let's hope they can do it.
Italy: 3-5-2 - Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Antonio Candreva, Marco Parolo, Thiago Motta, Emanuele Giaccherini, Mattia De Sciglio; Simone Zaza, Eder.
Sweden: 4-4-2 - Andreas Isaksson; Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson; Sebastian Larsson, Oscar Lewicki, Oscar Hiljemark, Emil Forsberg; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcus Berg.
How To Watch
Where: Stade Municipal, Tolouse.
When: 15.00pm local, 9.00am EST, Friday 17th June 2016.
TV: SKY Italia 1 (Italy), ITV 1 (UK), ESPN (USA)
Online: SKY Go Italia (Italy), The ITV Hub (UK), WATCH ESPN (USA)
International listings can be viewed here.
This tournament has been very cagey and tactical so far, but the best team has usually won. Italy should do so in this case too.
Italy 1-0 Sweden.