Germany boss Hansi Flick expects Italy’s under-pressure head coach Roberto Mancini to come out firing and inspire the European champions in Saturday’s Nations League clash.
Italy host Germany in Bologna with the hosts licking their wounds from a 3-0 thrashing by Argentina in Wednesday’s Finalissima at Wembley and still reeling after again missing out on World Cup qualification.
A shock 1-0 defeat to North Macedonia in a play-off in March saw Italy fail to qualify for a second successive World Cup.
“We were all surprised that Italy were knocked out and it’s not easy to predict how they will play,” Flick said at Germany’s training base in Herzogenaurach, Bavaria.
He is wary of Mancini, who is leading another rebuilding job in the wake of Italy’s latest World Cup blow after taking over as coach in 2018 and masterminding their Euro 2020 triumph.
“It’s the second time Mancini has started a new cycle,” said Flick.
“He has a very big squad with young, ambitious players.
“He did a fantastic job after the World Cup in Russia.
“I think we were all fans (of the Italian team) during the European Championship – the team spirit and how they played was impressive.
He will try to do the same again and has the quality to implement that.”
Germany have eight wins and one draw from nine games since Flick took charge, but history shows he is right to be cautious.
Italy have won 15 of the 35 meetings between the European powerhouses with 12 draws and just eight wins by Germany.
Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport views the Germany match as a “decisive test for this Italy, whose mood and prestige are sinking ever lower”.
The Germans want to throw down a marker at the start of a dense run of Nations League games.
They host England on Tuesday in Munich, then play Hungary away four days later before facing Italy in Moenchengladbach on June 14.
“We want to be back among the world’s best,” said Flick, with the Germans still smarting from their 2018 World Cup group stage exit as reigning champions.
“Now we’ll have to see what the four games yield and see what we need to do better before the 2022 World Cup.”