Guus Hiddink’s second spell in charge of the Dutch national team begins with a trip to Bari for a tie against Italy.

  • By Michael Bell
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nethargHiddink first took charge of the national team in 1994 and stayed for a four year spell which ended after a fourth place finish at the 1998 World Cup in France. Now the former PSV, Real Madrid and Russia coach replaces Louis van Gaal, who moved to Manchester United after guiding Netherlands to an excellent third place finish in last summers World Cup in Brazil.

The aim for Hiddink is to excel at the Euro 2016 tournament in France and the qualification for that starts next week in the Czech Republic, but first Netherlands face Italy in a glamorous friendly match.

They do so without key man Arjen Robben, who pulled out through injury, while Klaas jan Huntelaar, Rafael van der Vaart, Ron Vlaar, and Jordy Clasie are also unavailable.

Celtic defender Virgil van Dijk has been called into the squad for the first time and could make his debut, while Ibrahim Afelley is back in the national set up after finally returning to full fitness.

Hiddink will return to a 4-3-3 formation against Italy, after Van Gaal shunted the usual Dutch way of playing in Brazil for a more conservative 5-3-2.

Possible Netherlands line-up: Cillessen, Janmaat, Pieters, Martins Indi, De Vrij, De Jong, Blind, Sneijder, Depay, Afellay, Van Persie

Italy, like Netherlands, are also beginning in a new era with a new coach as ex-Juventus coach Antonio Conte replaces Cesare Prandelli after the nation was knocked out in the group stages at the World Cup.

Andrea Pirlo has since retired from international football, while Mario Balotelli, and key defender Giorgio Chiellini will both miss the game on Thursday. Conte is likely to use a 3-5-2 formation, which was his favourite at Juventus.

Possible Italy line-up: Buffon, Bonucci, Rannocchia, Astori, Candreva, Parolo, De Rossi, Marchisio, De Sciglio, Immobile, Giovinco

Head to head:

Netherlands have a good record against the Italians with the nations meeting 18 times in the past and the Dutch triumphing on nine occasions, while Italy have only won three times. The last two meetings have ended in draws, with PSG midfielder Marco Veratti rescuing a late 1-1 draw in the most recent match in Netherlands.

Key Players to watch:

Memphis Depay

The outstanding player of the Eredivisie season so far, Depay has netted nine times in all competitions for PSV. After a bit part role in the World Cup Depay is ready to become a regular starter for his nation, and with no Arjen Robben in the squad, it could be up to the PSV winger to provide a bit of magic against the Italians.

Daley Blind

After a great World Cup, Blind goes into Netherlands squad for the first time as a Manchester United player, and with new coach Guus Hiddink not seeing him as a left back, the former Ajax man may get the chance to line up in his favoured role in midfield. Blind loves to control matches from just in front of the back four, and Manchester United fans will be eager to see their new man in action.

Ciro Immobile

With no Mario Balotelli in the squad, Ciro immobile is expected to get the nod to start for Italy up front. Immobile netted 22 times for Torino in Seria A last season before joining German giants Borussia Dortmund in the summer. He may not have scored in four previous matches for the national team, but Immobile will look to seize his big chance against the Dutch.

Prediction:

A feel good factor has returned to Dutch football after the World Cup, and Hiddink will want to continue the nations confidence against the Italians. However Conte will also be eager not to begin his Italy era with a defeat, and i feel a draw is the most likely outcome.

Italy 1-1 Netherlands




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