Football fans are gathering in Rome ahead of England’s Euro 2020 quarter final clash against Ukraine – with pundits saying the Three Lions are favourites to seal a place in the last four.
Italy is on the UK government’s amber list and travel restrictions mean all British arrivals have to isolate for five days. But those already living in Europe can visit Italy with an EU-approved COVID passport.
Millions of fans are set to watch the highly-anticipated tie – which kicks off at 8pm – either at home or in the pub, with more than a million takeaway orders predicted.
England manager Southgate is expected to make changes to the team that started against Germany in the last round.
Mason Mount, who was forced to isolate for 10 days after close contact with Scotland’s Billy Gilmour who contracted COVID, is set to return to the line-up, while winger Jadon Sancho is expected to make his first start of the tournament.
Fan favourite Jack Grealish is not expected to make the first 11, according to Sky Sports News.
It said England’s probable line-up is Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Mount and Sancho.
Ukraine’s squad, managed by former AC Milan star Andriy Shevchenko, includes Premier League players Oleksandr Zinchenko and Andriy Yarmolenko.
The match, which is airing on BBC 1, will largely have Ukraine supporters in the stands of the Stadio Olimpico.
However some England fans have managed to get tickets for the game as they live outside of the UK.
Luke Curner, originally from Folkestone, Kent, was able to avoid isolation as he travelled from Helmstedt, Germany, where he lives with his wife and children.
The 36-year-old, who bought tickets for the match in 2019 as it falls on his birthday weekend, said: “I feel very privileged to be here, I’m usually on the wrong end of these kind of situations.”
Jack Francis, 20, from Southampton, travelled to Rome from France and said he feels “lucky” to be able to go.
“It feels very surreal, and hopefully it will be a memorable game which will be talked about for years to come if we go all the way,” he added.
Former England player Jamie Carragher said Southgate’s side are now favourites to win Euro 2020 and end 55 years of hurt after the national team’s last major tournament victory in 1966.
But the Sky Sports pundit warned the match against Ukraine “still won’t be easy”.
“Going to Rome, just that uprooting, you are not in your familiar surroundings, that could have a bearing on the game,” he said.
But he added: “With the confidence that England will have, they are favourites now and I don’t see that changing.”
Former football manager Harry Redknapp is predicting a 3-0 win for England, while ex-England goalkeeper David James said he believes it will be a 2-1 win for the Three Lions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson posed with a huge England flag outside 10 Downing Street ahead of the match, as he told the team: “We’re right behind you.”
Discrimination has no place in football and we want to ensure a fun and inclusive environment for everyone.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) July 3, 2021
Meanwhile, Frank Skinner posted a video of himself singing along to his England anthem Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home) on his Absolute Radio show this morning.
Boxing great Wladimir Klitschko, who is from Ukraine, shared a video of himself wearing his national team’s jersey, saying he “wouldn’t miss the match for the world”.
Hospitality and food industry figures are expecting a flurry of activity tonight, with JustEat predicting more than a million takeaway orders.
Brits are expected to splash the cash as heavy rain and possibly thunderstorms hit the UK ahead of the match on Saturday – potentially spoiling barbeque plans.
The Met Office has issued a yellow thunderstorm warning for much of central England on Saturday, while a similar warning of heavy rain is in place for large swathes of the South West.
The weather alerts warn that people could see flooding to homes and businesses, delays or cancellations to transport services and a danger that communities may become “cut-off”.