With Euro 2016 fast approaching, several of the likely main antagonists in France will be in action in international friendlies over the break this week.
While it will present an opportunity for the respective coaches to experiment and finalise their squad selections and systems for the summer, it will also be important from a confidence and morale perspective to pick up positive results.
In turn, there are five fascinating encounters to look forward, all of which pit some of the top nations in Europe against each other which should make for entertaining viewing.
Italy vs Spain – The Azzurri know that Antonio Conte will be leaving after Euro 2016, with FIGC President Carlo Tavecchio confirming his departure when his contract expires in the summer, as reported by Football Italia.
In turn, it will be interesting to see how they fare against one of the favourites this summer, with Spain determined to put their disastrous 2014 World Cup behind them and try to defend their European crown.
Neither side will want to lose this game, but expect some exciting new faces for Italy with Federico Bernardeschi and Jorginho getting call-ups.
Netherlands vs France – The rebuilding process begins now for Danny Blind, as after missing out in qualification, their long-term target will now be the 2018 World Cup.
As for Les Bleus, Didier Deschamps will be under pressure to get things right this summer as the host nation, and that could involve some changes this week to be sure of which players deserve a call up.
Leicester City midfielder N’Golo Kante has been included in the squad, and he will hope to take his club form onto the international scene.
Germany vs England – A great clash full of history and never likely to be a dull contest. Roy Hodgson’s men impressed through qualification, now they must take that into a big tournament.
This will be an intriguing test, as both managers will likely put out strong sides despite the likes of Danny Drinkwater and Jonathan Tah being in line to make their debuts.
The Germans are always contenders, and so a win for the Three Lions would be a perfect morale boost ahead of the summer.
Germany vs Italy – As noted above, Joachim Low’s men will be amongst the favourites this summer as they look to add the European crown to their World Cup trophy.
However, the Azzurri know what it takes to win and how to manage big-game situations, and this will likely be a big indication into how the two teams will line up in France.
While it might be ‘just a friendly’, these two proud nations will be out for a victory as Conte looks to gain a psychological edge over a potential future opponent.
England vs Netherlands – The Dutch may not be travelling to France this summer, but that shouldn’t take too much away from this friendly with England returning to Wembley.
Hodgson could rotate just a few days after their trip to Germany, but back him to select a strong line-up in this fixture as England will hope to make a statement in front of their own fans.
Although there is still over two months to go before France and Romania get us underway on June 10, these type of tests will be crucial to gain momentum.