Germany v Italy
That doesn’t have any particular bearing here but it probably doesn’t help the Germans, who are struggling to find their best form and in truth have failed to recreate their performances of 2014 ever since Lahm, Mertesacker and Klose retired following their triumph in Brazil. They’ve now lost three of their last four matches and in friendlies they’ve lost three in a row. Furthermore, they’ve conceded at least twice in each of their last four friendly matches and in five of their last six friendlies at home – all of which have had at least three goals and five of which have had four or more.
Italy are coming off a 1-1 draw with Spain but while they’ve failed to score just once in their last 17 matches they do not look the strongest in attack. Since the start of the 2013/14 season they’ve played 11 matches against teams we had in the top 20 in our rankings and only twice have they scored more than once – against England at the World Cup and against the Netherlands post-World Cup when the Dutch were in sharp decline. They’ve lost six of these 11 matches, including four 1-0 losses, despite just two being on the road – both of which they lost – and we expect them to find it tough here.
Germany are not World Champions for nothing and they’ve not lost three consecutive matches since the start of the nineties. Furthermore, they’ve gone into seven matches since 2000 having lost their past two games and won six of them, and while their defence might be vulnerable Italy lack the penetration to really hurt them.
Republic of Ireland v Slovakia
Slovakia were only able to manage a goalless draw with Latvia on Friday and while they’d scored 10 times in their previous three games they’d gone three games without scoring prior to that. They were effective on the road in qualifying though as they won four of five matches (losing 2-0 to Spain) but it wasn’t the toughest of groups and this Irish defence is likely to prove rather more stubborn. Seven of their last eight trips to teams in the top 80 of our rankings have had fewer than three goals with half having fewer than two.
These two sides look pretty evenly matched and indeed they drew both meetings in the Euro 2012 qualifiers. If anything Slovakia have the greater quality but they look likely to field a more experimental side and don’t have great depth so that should hand the advantage to Ireland. As such the Irish have a great chance of another clean sheet and we certainly expect a low-scoring game, with 10 of their last 13 matches having fewer than three goals (one of the exceptions was a relatively low scoring 4-0 win over Gibraltar).