Shane Long Republic of Ireland
Shane Long needs to find his goalscoring touch if the Republic of Ireland are to beat Italy in this Euro 2016 match. Pictured: Long in an Ireland training session, June 21, 2016Reuters

Italy might have nothing to play for in their final Group E game, but this match will make or break the Republic of Ireland's chances of going through to the knockout stages of Euro 2016. While Italy are already assured of top spot, and a last 16 match against Spain, Ireland need three points to have any hopes of continuing on in this tournament.

The reward for two wins from two matches for Italy is a pre-quarterfinal against the defending champions, and while they might not be entirely happy with that matchup, what Antonio Conte's men will want to do is finish Group E on a high, make a statement and just send a worrying shiver or two down Spain's spine.

However, that is not expected to be easy, since Conte is expected to rest a number of his players, considering this is, as far as Italy are concerned, a dead rubber.

At least two of the three centre-backs – Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli – are expected to be rested, with Angelo Ogbonna coming in, while there should be considerable change in the midfield and attacking line.

The likes of Federico Bernadeschi, Stephan El Shaarawy, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Simone Zaza have not go much of an opportunity, so expect all of them to feature at some stage, if not from the start, while Antonio Candreva is a doubt with a thigh problem.

Ireland manager Martin O'Neill cannot afford to make such sweeping changes, considering there is a last 16 place at stake for them. Ireland absolutely need to win this match to have any chance of progress into the next round. And the only way for them to be absolutely assured of a place in the final 16, by finishing second, is if Sweden also beat Belgium in the other Group E match, and then they top the Swedes on goal difference.

So, ideally, the Republic of Ireland need a big win over Italy, which just goes to show the immense challenge that lies ahead of them.

Jonathan Walters still remains a doubt with the Achilles injury, which kept him out of the 3-0 loss to Belgium. If Walters does not make it in time, it will be interesting to see if O'Neill goes with the same team that got hammered against Belgium. In that match, O'Neill decided to push Robbie Brady from left-back to left wing, choosing to play with five in midfield and Shane Long as the lone striker.

Since the Republic of Ireland are the ones who need the goals, that plan might change, with O'Neill possibly bringing in a second striker to help Long out up front. That forward is likely to be Daryl Murphy, or even Robbie Keane, while O'Neill can also bring in James McClean down the left, put Brady back at left-back and make that left wing just that little bit more attacking.

In the midfield, James McCarthy is expected to be dropped to tbe bench for Stephen Quinn or David Meyler, while Ciaran Clark's iffy form at the back means, Shane Duffy or Richard Keogh could come in.

Confirmed starting XI: Italy: Sirigu; Barzagli, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Bernardeschi, Sturaro, Motta, Florenzi, De Sciglio; Zaza, Immobile.

Republic of Ireland: Randolph; Coleman, Duffy, Keogh, Ward; McClean, Hendrick, Mccarthy, Brady; Long, Murphy.

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