FLORENCE, Italy (AP) Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura is counting on his youngsters.
Ventura has not been afraid to bring in new players since he took charge after the 2016 European Championship, including giving teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma his debut.
“We all remember when I said there was a crop of youngsters who would need to be taken care of to build an important national team for the future,” Ventura said. “If we qualify for the World Cup then we could be a surprise because there is a huge hunger in these young players.”
Ventura has also organized two training camps to have a closer look at other young players, with a third planned for May.
“The young players must live, breath and experience the national team, only then will they be ready for important challenges,” he said. “We are convinced that the youngsters will be the future and we are giving them time to grow.
“(Andrea) Petagna and (Leonardo) Spinazzola have gone from the training camp to the full team. But It’s not enough to be young, you also have to have potential. Of course some guys have fulfilled expectations, others have stopped.”
Only the nine European group winners are guaranteed to reach the World Cup, while the eight best runners-up face a playoff. Italy is level on points with Spain at the top of Group G but second on goal difference.
“The primary concern is qualifying, seeing as it’s the first time that only one team goes through and we’re not at the top of the standings,” Ventura said. “To qualify we need the youngsters but also the experience of those less young.”
Italy and Spain, which drew 1-1 in Turin, are next scheduled to meet on Sept. 2. Before that, Italy faces Liechtenstein on June 11 and Albania in Palermo on Friday. Italy also visits the Netherlands for a friendly international next Tuesday.
“The result is extremely important,” Ventura said. “We are aware it will be a delicate match and that will allow us to go to Spain to obtain something concrete.
“I am calm because after three months I have again found a group of players who are ready to give their all.”
Brighton comes back thrice in head-spinning thriller with Brentford
But Kaoru Mitoma, Danny Welbeck, and Alexis Mac Allister all scored equalizers — Mac Allister’s coming from the spot in the 90th minute after a VAR review — and Brighton got its point, too.
Brentford’s been the total package and good at finding results, losing just five Premier League matches this season, but their unwillingness to hold onto leads Saturday means their 43 points are six off fourth place having played the same amount of matches as Spurs.
Brighton’s 43 points give it sixth place and the Seagulls have two matches-in-hand on Spurs plus a goal differential advantage of six on their Saturday foes.
De Zerbi’s Seagulls shining but lacking top-four cutting edge
Credit Brighton for so many things: Its ability to recruit replacements for big name players and coaches, its stylish football, its three (3?!?) equalizers on Saturday.
And credit them and Brentford for giving us a wonderful feast of attacking football on Saturday. It was awesome. Let’s do it again next year, yeah?
But given Liverpool and Chelsea’s relative season failures, the Seagulls are going to waste one of their best chances — if not their best ever chance — to qualify for the UEFA Champions League because of draws like this (and March 11 at Leeds… and Feb. 11 at Palace… and Jan. 21 at Leicester).
Yes those are good points for a team of Brighton’s reputation and expectations, but the reason they’re on the outskirts of the top four battle and not in the catbird seat is the missed opportunities to get three points from teams of, around, and behind their reputation.
Brentford is a very good team and the same criticism can be lobbed at the Bees given recent results with Leicester, Everton, and Palace, but there’s a rub: Thomas Frank’s men will have ultimately understood a point from the Amex as a positive even with three blown leads, especially given the gulf in shot attempts. Brighton needed all three of these points.
Brighton vs Brentford player ratings: Stars of the Show
Alexis Mac Allister
Brighton has two away matches In five days, traveling to Bournemouth on Tuesday before a Saturday trip to Tottenham.
Brentford will likely determine its top-four hopes this week with a Wednesday trip to Manchester United before hosting Newcastle on Saturday.
Pontus Jansson goal video: Veteran defender thumps header home
Kaoru Mitoma goal video: Brighton’s first equalizer is sweet
Ivan Toney goal video: Quickest of quickfire replies as Mbeumo flicks assist
Danny Welbeck goal video: Brighton back level!
Ethan Pinnock goal video: Third lead for the Bees
Alexis Mac Allister goal video: Third leveler comes from spot
How to watch Brighton vs Brentford live, stream link and start time
Graham Potter’s Chelsea were pinned back before the international break as they drew 2-2 at home against Everton after leading twice. However, they are unbeaten in their last five games in all competitions and have reached the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals. Things are looking a bit better for the Blues in their 3-4-3 formation and the pressure has eased on Potter slightly as players continue to return from injury. A win against Villa this weekend will keep their slim hopes of a top four finish alive but a top six finish is probably as good as it will get for them this season.
Unai Emery has done a phenomenal job at Villa with the Spanish coach leading them from a relegation scrap to a quest for European qualification within just a few months. Villa are resolute defensively and have a clear playing style as they love to catch opponents out on the counter and they did that brilliantly in their 3-0 win against Bournemouth last time out. With three wins in their last four, can Villa continue their surge and push for a top six finish?
How to watch Chelsea vs Aston Villa live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday TV Channel: USA Network Online: Stream via NBCSports.com
Key storylines & in-form players to watch
Chelsea have so many players stepping up in recent weeks but Joao Felix and Kai Havertz have really got going in attack. The duo are scoring goals, creating chances and Chelsea look much more confident when they get into the final third. Enzo Fernandez and Benoit Badiashile have both slotted in seamlessly following their January moves. Yes, Chelsea are still a long way back when it comes to the top four but they are they kind of team who can go on a long unbeaten run and they certainly have so many options with a massive squad of players all pushing to start in this new fluid 3-4-3 system.
Villa’s recent success has been built on solid defense and Emiliano Martinez in goal and Tyrone Mings at center back have been back to their best. Ollie Watkins leading the line always causes problems and midfield creators and wingers always seem to be ready to counter and cause a surprise. Emery has done a remarkable job at Villa and it will be a lot of fun to see how close they can get to a top six finish this season.
Can Borussia Dortmund keep its position in the catbird seat with a Klassiker win over reigning champions Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on Saturday?
Or will they former manager land a major blow for his new side, as Thomas Tuchel takes the reins of wounded Bayern. The 10-time defending champions fell out of first with a 2-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen that sent Julian Nagelsmann packing (for North London?).
BVB is in pursuit of its first Meisterschale since the 2011-12 season, its eighth in history. It’s been all Bayern since then, as the Bavarians have claimed 10-consecutive league crowns.
Here’s the thing: If Bayern really had problems between its players and Nagelsmann, they weren’t totally manifesting themselves on the pitch. Bayern’s 72 goals are 17 more than anyone else in the Bundesliga and its 27 conceded are one better than second-place Union Berlin.
Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund.
How to watch Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund live, stream link and start time
Kick off: 12:30pm ET, Saturday TV Channel/Online:Stream via ESPN+
Updates: Scoreboard, stats, more at Scoreboard.nbcsports.com
Key storylines & star players
Bayern’s all about controlling the game, and it does so with aplomb thanks to Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka. The side has pace for days and has also gotten monstrous amounts of creativity from Alphonso Davies and Jamal Musiala. There’s no Robert Lewandowski, but Bayern spreads the goals around through Musiala (11), Choupo-Moting (10), and Serge Gnabry (9). Manuel Neuer’s out, but the club’s quickly filled his space with Yann Sommer.
Dortmund slipped itself a couple of matches ago, a 2-2 draw in the Revierderby, but it bounded back with a 6-1 demolition of Koln. Bundesliga assist hero Raphael Guerreiro scored in that game while Sebastien Haller and Marco Reus both posted braces. Reus remains the heart of the club and has been a boon for Edin Terzic. A wild card is USMNT star Giovanni Reyna, who has posted terrific advanced stats in Bundesliga play but is still mainly just getting 15-20 minute cameos if he plays at all for BVB.
Bayern Munich team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Lucas Hernandez (ACL), Manuel Neuer (leg), Paul Wanner (adductor), Mathys Tel (muscular), Arijon Ibrahimovic (virus).
The result will certainly frustrate Nottingham Forest (27 points), who would have climbed four places into 12th and been five points clear of the relegation zone with 10 games left to play, had they held on (instead, 14th, three points clear). Wolves (28 points) take another baby step toward safety, now four points above the drop zone with nine games left.
Forest took the lead in the 38th minute, when Danilo dinked a through ball into the penalty area and found Johnson making a run wide of Jose Sa’s left-hand post. The ball bounced once before Johnson hammered it hard toward the far post, rippling the inside netting and taking the 21-year-old’s season tally to eight goals this season.
That’s four goals in eight games for Johnson, who scored 18 and had 10 assists in the EFL Championship a season ago. Any questions over whether his production would translate to the top tier, and the best leave in the world, have been answered.
Daniel Podence took Wolves’ rare sight of goal and made something out of nothing in the 83rd minute. After an unthreatening shot from outside the box was blocked, the ball fell to Podence on the left side of the penalty area. He cut inside and hooked the ball past Keylor Navas to make it 1-1.
Wolves no longer defend well enough to attack this poorly
Once again this season, Wolves have gone for the “defensively solid, but offensively deficient” approach, only this time their defensive record (42 goals conceded) is just as poor as the goal-scoring output (23 scored). The goal they conceded on Saturday saw too many white shirts standing and watching the ball inside their own penalty area.
Creating scoring chances is like pulling teeth for Julen Lopetegui’s side. Even their late equalizer came as a result of a blocked shot that turned into a through ball, rather than any kind of cohesive build-up.
Stars of the show
Nottingham Forest have another big week coming up, with a trip to Elland Road to face Leeds (26 points – 16th place) on Tuesday (2:45 pm ET) before heading to Villa Park to face Aston Villa (38 points – 11th place) on Saturday (10 am ET). Wolves, meanwhile, will host Chelsea at Molineux Stadium on Saturday (10 am ET).
Nottingham Forest vs Wolves final score: 1-1
How to watch Nottingham Forest vs Wolves live, stream link and start time
No side in the Premier League has scored fewer goals than Forest (or Wolves – 22 each), and only Bournemouth (54) have conceded more than Steve Cooper’s newly promoted side (49). All of which is to say, the Reds are in the thick of the relegation scrap based on merit. Injuries have certainly played their part, though, with as many as 14 players either confirmed out for the weekend, or an injury doubt. 21-year-old Brennan Johnson (7 goals, 2 assists) has been something of a revelation in his first PL season and Taiwo Awoniyi has four goals of his own, but no one else has more than two on the season (Morgan Gibbs-White and Emmanuel Dennis).
Once again this season, Wolves have gone for the “defensively solid, but offensively deficient” approach, only this time their defensive record (41 goals conceded) is just as poor as the goal-scoring output (22 scored). Like Forest, only two players (Daniel Podence and Ruben Neves) have scored more than two goals (Adama Traore) en route to 22 goals scored in 28 games.
Nottingham Forest team news, injuries, lineup options
OUT: Taiwo Awoniyi (groin), Scott McKenna (thigh), Willy Boly (thigh), Dean Henderson (thigh), Giulian Biancone (knee), Omar Richards (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Brennan Johnson (groin), Chris Wood (thigh), Cheickou Kouyate (thigh), Andre Ayew (knee), Serge Aurier (knock), Wayne Hennessey (knee), Ryan Yates (shoulder)
✋ Five changes from #NFONEW. 🇧🇷 Danilo back in the XI. 🇳🇬 Taiwo back in the squad.