England U21 v Italy U21: European Championship Match Preview
Stuart Pearce will be without Danny Rose and Thomas Ince (suspension) for the tournament opener with Italy after the pair were banned in the fallout from the racist abuse in the qualification play-off tie with Serbia in October.
Wilfried Zaha (ankle) should be fit to play, but will need to nurse a long-standing ankle problem throughout the tournament.
Pearce has no other injury or suspension concerns, however, with the likes of Southampton defender Luke Shaw (back), Wigan attacker Callum McManaman (ankle) and Liverpool's Raheem Sterling (thigh) all ruling themselves out before the squad travelled to Israel.
Tottenham's Andros Townsend withdrew after being charged by the Football Association for alleged betting offences.
Striker Lorenzo Insigne (knee) is the only worry for Italy Under-21 boss Devis Mangia, after the Napoli striker missed training in the build-up to Wednesday's game.
Pearce leads England into what will be their fourth successive Under-21 tournament hoping to make more of an impression than they did two years ago, when they exited at the group stage. In 2009 Pearce’s charges reached the final, losing to old foes Germany, but this year’s squad is weaker than both.
Yet there is still talent which can take England into the last four and perhaps beyond. Jordan Henderson is the most senior member of the side and the Liverpool midfielder enjoyed some good moments for his club last season.
Wilfried Zaha has just enjoyed promotion with Crystal Palace and the Manchester United man is one of England’s brightest young prospects. While Steven Caulker has been reliable for Tottenham and goalkeeper Jack Butland is extremely promising.
England Predicted Line Up: Butland; Clyne, Dawson, Caulker, Smith; Henderson, Chalobah; McEachran; Zaha, Wickham, Shelvey
Italy Precited Line Up: Bardi; Donati, Caldirola, Capuano, Biralghi; Veratti, Florenzi, Marrone; Immoble, Insigne, Borini
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