Two Heavyweights Collide In Euro 2020 Quarterfinal Showdown Between Italy, Belgium

Friday's Euro 2020 quarterfinal between Belgium and Italy has the potential to be a standout game in a tournament full of wildly entertaining matchups. 

Both sides topped their groups with three wins out of three and they each scored seven goals as well. Belgium allowed just one goal in group play while Italy managed to keep three clean sheets and stretched an already impressive run to over 1,000 minutes without conceding

What Roberto Mancini ultimately decides in terms of the starting lineup will be interesting to see. Despite scoring twice against Switzerland in the group stage, midfielder Manuel Locatelli was benched for the Round-of-16 tie against Austria. Mancini has options aplenty in the midfield, including Matteo Pessina, the Atalanta midfielder who scored in the 105th minute against Austria, and Roma man Bryan Cristante. 

Further forward, it would be surprising if Federico Chiesa did not start — he also came off the bench to score against Austria and has looked a more potent threat than Domenico Berardi on the wing for the Italians. Apart from the question of the right wing, the rest of the Azzurri's attack is made up of nailed-on starters Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne. 

Roberto Martínez and Belgium will be sweating over the fitness of stars Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, who both came off injured in the Red Devils' victory over Portugal in the Round of 16. Martínez said following the game: "Our main concern at the moment is time, as the match against Italy is coming up quickly. Kevin and Eden probably won't get 100 percent fit, but we will use every day to get them as fit as possible."

With those two question marks aside, it is expected Martínez will field largely the same team that took on Portugal.

The Italian defense has been rock solid and while the attack was firing on all cylinders in the first two games of the tournament, Italy has been extremely wasteful since. Though already having booked passage to the next round, the 1-0 victory over Wales should not have been a near-run thing. Italy squandered several chances and that wastefulness could haunt it if it continues against a high-powered side like Belgium — Mancini's side has a conversion rate of 14.1 percent this tournament compared to Belgium's 25 percent.

The two sides haven't met since 2016, when Italy claimed a 2-0 win. Friday's game will begin at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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