Many people had already written off Italy before Euro 2016 even began. Despite a history of strong tournament performances, it was widely expected that the Azzurri would bow out in the early stages of the competition in unspectacular fashion. However, Conte's team defied the critics with convincing wins over both group favourites Belgium and a Sweden side spearheaded by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Having already qualified for the knockout round of the competition and surprising everyone in the process, Italy have now emerged as a strong contender to go all the way and win the tournament.
With qualification in the bag, Conte is expected to field an experimental line-up in the final group match against the Republic of Ireland. As many as eight or nine starters could be rested for this match and a change of formation is more than likely. Conte is expected to opt for a 343 formation that would place an emphasis on the attacking talent included in the squad. Both Gianluigi Buffon and Antonio Candreva are reported to have missed training this week and so are certain to be absent here. Otherwise the likes of Stefano Sturaro, Stephane El Shaarawy and Federico Bernardeschi amongst others could be set to coming into the starting line-up for this match.
Ireland come into this game off the back of a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of the Belgians, who comfortably dispatched with them last Saturday. Whilst their expectations are low, having beaten Sweden on the first match day they will still hold out hope of qualifying for the knockout round and a result against Italy would guarantee them a third place finish at the very least. Despite a lack of individual talent, Ireland will fancy their chances in this match and Conte might well look to settle for a draw if Italy encounter difficulties in breaking them down.
Whilst this is essentially a dead rubber for the Azzurri, it should still be an interesting contest given the players coming into the team. Players such as Ciro Immobile, Mattia De Sciglio and Lorenzo Insigne will be desperate to prove themselves in the hope of featuring again in the knockout rounds and knowing Conte's methods they'll be as motivated as ever. Hopefully Italy can secure a third victory to round out a perfect run and focus their efforts on going as far as possible afterwards.
Italy: 3-4-3 - Salvatore Sirigu; Andrea Barzagli, Angelo Ogbonna, Matteo Darmian; Mattia De Sciglio, Thiago Motta, Stefano Sturaro, Stephane El Shaarawy; Federico Bernardeschi, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne.
Ireland: 4-4-2 - Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman, John O'Shea, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ward; James McLean, Jeff Hendrick, James McCarthy, Robbie Brady; Wes Hoolahan, Shane Long.
How To Watch
Where: Grand Stade Lille Metropole, Lille.
When: 21.00pm local, 15.00pm EST, Wednesday 22nd 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.
Italy don't need to win this match, so don't expect a barnstorming performance. They should still manage it though, just about.
Italy 1-0 Ireland.