England will kick off their World Cup with a tricky test against fellow European’s in Manaus as Group D gets underway.
With Uruguay against Costa Rica playing earlier in the day, the duo will know exactly what will be required of them at kick off time, not that it will impact too much on their plans.
A win is the minimum requirement for nations of this calibre and with both teams harbouring aspirations of, at the minimum, a place in the last 8, quick start is vital. Both sides impressed during the qualifying stages and they were comfortable winners of their respective groups.
The emphasis on youth in the English squad has led to low expectations amongst the footballing public and that could be their trump card. Manager Roy Hodgson has worked best when working as an underdog and while there is a lot of potential in the squad the lack of experience at his level could hinder them.
One of those exciting young players is Raheem Sterling. The 19 year old Liverpool star has enjoyed a stunning 6 months and he looks set to cap by being unleashed against the Italians on Saturday.
The winger is set to play in the number 10 role, if we are to believe events from midweek when he played there in a behind-closed-doors training session.
The chances of Sterling, who missed the 0-0 draw with Honduras following his sending off against Ecuador, starting increased dramatically following a thigh injury sustained in training by Danny Welbeck.
The Manchester United man, with 8 goals in 20 games under Roy Hodgson, was almost a certain starter against the Italians but is now set to join Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on the sidelines.
That’s means that Sterling will line up behind Daniel Sturridge with Wayne Rooney on the left.
The inclusion of Sterling will have the dual effect of adding pace to the England side and putting Andrea Pirlo in the difficult situation of watching his back.
In midfield Jordan Henderson is likely to line up alongside Captain Steven Gerrard with Adam Lallana potentially the third midfielder although he faces a battle with Jack Wilshere for the spot.
The back five looks set to name itself with Joe Hart, Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Leighton Baines all well acquainted at this point.
The fact that all five have either played with or against Mario Balotelli at some point will help their cause with the AC Milan man set to lead the line for Italy.
England have a poor overall record against the Italians losing 10 and drawing 7 of their 25 clashes to date and they crashed out of Euro 2012 on penalties to the same opponents. Thankfully penalties won’t be on the agenda this time round for the Three Lions.
They will however have to contend with a pitch that is not yet complete at the new Arena Amazônia, ensuring that there will be more bumps than necessary on this journey.