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Wednesday March 5 2014
Prandelli’s Spanish test

It may not be the friendly Italy wanted, but Cesare Prandelli’s side have the opportunity to test their strength against Spain, writes Luca Cetta.

Juventus may not agree, but for Cesare Prandelli tonight’s friendly against Spain at Madrid’s Estadio Vicente Calderon is vital.

Three months out from the start of the World Cup, this week has been one of Prandelli’s final opportunities to amass the squad, aside from an upcoming two-day camp at Coverciano. “It is our last friendly before the World Cup, so it is important to be here even if you are not playing.”

It’s why Italy’s CT was steadfast in his desire to bring Bianconeri defender Giorgio Chiellini along, much to the chagrin of Beppe Marotta and Antonio Conte. Chiellini has been out with a calf injury in recent weeks, but was called up by Prandelli. The tactician wants to leave ‘pointless controversy’ behind and focus on the road to Brazil.

The Azzurri commence their World Cup campaign on June 14 versus England in Manaus. With so few opportunities to get a close look at prospective squad members, the Calderon assignment offers Prandelli the chance to test his side against a top-level opponent. He does so with questions surrounding the team.

The friendly is a chance to start looking towards England. It’s not a time for mass-experimentation, hence a squad consisting mostly of players expected to cross the Atlantic. It isn’t completely void of new faces – there are spots for Mattia Perin, Argentina-born Gabriel Paletta, Marco Parolo and Ciro Immobile, plus the return of Mattia Destro. Just don’t expect them all to be thrown into the starting XI.

Indeed, Prandelli’s rumoured line-up is thought to include Paletta for his Azzurri debut, alongside a number of squad regulars. “This is no ordinary friendly,” Prandelli announced in his Press conference, “so tomorrow I will evaluate the growth of for example Alessio Cerci, who will be playing from the start.”

Should Cerci be joined by Antonio Candreva and Dani Osvaldo as expected, it gives an opportunity for the Juventus striker to stake his claim in a Mario Balotelli-less side. The Milan forward is out injured, so too Giuseppe Rossi. Prandelli needs to plan alternatives should Fiorentina’s hitman not be fit in time for Brazil. Enter Cerci. There’s also a chance for Thiago Motta - now back in contention following a year away from the Azzurri post-Euro 2012 - in the absence of Daniele De Rossi.

It’s not only the faces, but what shape the XI take. “As for the system, there is time for experiments, but my plan is to play with four midfielders and two forwards,” Prandelli continued.

This means the 3-5-2 formation which has given Italy much joy against La Roja is likely to be shelved. Spanish boss Vicente Del Bosque made allusion to Italy troubling his men in this system, but it seems they won’t get another look at it before June. With such little time remaining until the departure for Brazil, utilising a system not planned to play much of a role in the tournament makes little sense for Prandelli.

How the attacking trident is fielded is debateable. The Gazzetta dello Sport believes they will start in a 4-3-2-1 formation. Prandelli has a number of creative and attacking options, such are the dynamics of the squad. This match may offer a glimpse into the tactician’s thinking.

This will be the fifth time a Prandelli-led Italy has faced Spain. Come June, it may well be six, with nations in Group B and D on course for a quarter-final showdown. Reportedly, Italy tried to prevent this fixture, but Prandelli sees both positives and negatives: “Spain are World and European Champions, so we run many risks, but these are games that can give us a boost in terms of growth and character.”

With so little time to prepare until the end of the club season, tonight’s friendly is an important test. Italy have a number of attacking options and now is the time to start honing towards the preferred choice. Hopefully this friendly offers an insight into Prandelli’s thinking.

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Have your say...
@ Al in fairness to Giacherini he has done a good job for Prandelli in the past and Prandelli is just standing by him. I think it shows loyalty given he's one player who helped Italy to the finals in the Euros. People keep forgetting this. Italy got to the finals in the Euros via a tough group, England and Germany. In fairness I think people need to show a little more respect for Prandelli.

@ Sam De Martino I'll grant you Paletta. Astori did make the Serie A team of the week AGAIN last week!
on the 6th March, 2014 at 3:34pm
Guys, if we play 4321 against any of the decent sides we will struggle to control the games. We will be solid in shape and looking to hit on the counter attack. I see 2 formations critical for us. Either a 4312 - with the fantisista or a 352 geared up for us controlling possession through Pirlo. The 4312 for me only works if we bring Totti back in (doubtful) I think Mario and Beppe Rossi will trouble anyone but without the right service they are both redundant. Not worried about England at all.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 2:49pm
@Maldini's Heir, I've been concerned for a long time about the fitness levels of our players;long before we witnessed the shocking state of our players in the Euro 2012 final. This aspect is arguably my greatest concern going into the summer. Not only are our 3 games based in the north, our base is also a great distance from the stadiums. I was listening to Tim Vickery recently, & he said that Italy, with their choice of base, will create a logistical nightmare for themselves.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 2:10pm
Sam, I think that CP does know his first choice team & system. I think that the starting 11 vs England-barring injury-will be very close to: (4312) Buffon;Maggio, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini;Pirlo, De Rossi, Marchisio, Monty;Rossi, Balotelli. I'm 99% certain that I will be right about the midfield, although I do hope that I will be proven wrong.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 2:03pm
Words can't even explain how big of a joke it is that giaccherini is in the squad he sucks so bad anyone who has faith in him I'm sorry but your just as blind as Prandelli absolutely no way he should be at the World Cup. I think abete and the Figc should get together and try someway to schedule a random friendly match for late April or early may if possible and use that opportunity to get about 10 new faces in the squad for the experience.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 1:36pm
Would like to see Verratti given more playing time and Jorginho given a chance. Also read that Romulo would like to play for italy, he has been outstanding for Verona this season. Well done to under 21s, lots of players missing and a good win. Win next 2 home games now needed. Based on last nights games both Uruguay and England where poor. I am confident we can win the group, but we must beat england in first game.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 1:06pm
Buffon I thought played well, very unlucky with the goal. I dont think he should take any blame, he saw it late and his view was blocked. He isnt the keeper of 2006 when he was on another planet but he is still world class and a hugely important part of our team. Paletta was outstanding, but not as good as Astori HAHAHA. I want Ancelotti to take over after world cup and Cesare to work with younger teams and improving youth set up etc, behind the scenes.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 1:02pm
Prandelli doesnt know his best team or formation. We msut play 3 at the back against spain or the best teams or we have no chance, why everyone sees this but Cesare god knows. The same dead wood everytime Cesare picks, sick of saying it. Balo, Rossi and Cassano would in my view if all fit would do damage to any team. Our other forwards are no where near their levels. Would love to see Chiellini alongside Palletta 2 warriors. Defense a lot better last night.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:57pm
It's about keeping up with modern techniques. It seems Serie A has just been left behind by the Spanish, English and Germany leagues. It's concerning.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:56pm
Really interesting point by Prandelli about fitness. I remember a long time ago now Juve playing Man U off the park in the CL (maybe 1997). One of the things that really stood out in the game was Juve's fitness levels. Now before people start suggesting things about that Juve team(!!!) the point I'm making is when Serie A was at the top the players seem to have the best physical conditioning. Even MilanLab seemed to work. But now Serie A has fallen so far behind. This isn't about money.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:55pm
I see that Monty & Motta are getting stick, but where is the criticism for Marchisio? Once again he was largely anonymous & ineffective. He reminds me a bit of Tom Cleverley, he doesn't really excel at anything. People will label him as a continuity player, but this is just a polite way to say that he just leaves the bulk of the defensive & creative responsibility to his midfield partners. If CP wants a runner in his midfield, he should go for Florenzi: he has greater end product.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:36pm
We know what Buffon, Barzagli, Pirlo, Monty etc can do. But even in easy friendlies, against the likes of San Marino, CP continues to pick the old guard. Too many of our fringe players have not been given enough playing time. Should we get some injuries in June, then our back-up players/young talents could come in cold: a bit like Marchetti/Monty in 2010, when GB & AP were sidelined. His choice of system also puzzled me, given the effectiveness of the 352/3421 against the Spanish.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 11:48am
Really disappointed that Verratti didn't feature. With his ball retention skills & understanding with Motta, surely it would have made sense for him to start the match?! The club combo of Cerci & Immo should have also started the game. It annoys me when I read articles that say 'Prandelli is set to experiment'. He continues to use the same core of players-even in friendlies & mostly sticks to variants of a 4312 system. IMO, he doesn't experiment enough....
on the 6th March, 2014 at 11:36am
Monty and Marchisio are not playing well this season although the former is starting to find form under Seedorf and played ok last night. Parolo and Verratti should've got playing time. Personally another outside bet is Poli is probably been one of Milan's best players this season (albeit it is Milan and it is this season). Osvaldo proved to be a complete waste of time. Destro, Immobile or Insigne should've been given proper chances. I really cannot see how Osvaldo could be considered for the WC
on the 6th March, 2014 at 11:06am
Can everyone relax. It was a friendly. Worse. It was an Italy friendly. We never win friendlies! How can people criticise Prandelli when he has lead Italy to the final of the Euros and to the third place in the Confed as well as through two fairly straightforward sets of qualifiers? All with a pretty mediocre Italy team. The positives last night were definitely Paletta (kudos Sam De Martino!). Thiago Motta was ok in the first half but terrible in the second half. Italy need options in midfield.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 11:01am
I agree with "mm" as long as Cesare picks the same dead wood we will go nowhere. I agree unless we play 3 at the back against the best teams we have no hope, I like most cant understand how Cesare hasn't grasped this yet. I think Cesare would be great at working with youth teams and a behind the scenes role but for me I'd prefer if he left after world cup. Bring in Ancelotti, he would be great.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 10:23am
Positives = Cerci, Palletta
Negatives = Osvaldo, Motta, Candreva, Maggio, Immobilare.
I agree a little with Prandelli and think our fitness is below par.
I think forget about age, the WC is a tournament, not the league, you have to pick your BEST XI and try to win, that's it. Even if they are 50 years old, if they are playing well, pick them. My team 3-1-4-2 = Buffon, Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, De Rossi, Pirlo, Totti, Cerci, Montolivo, Balotelli, Pazzini.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 9:58am
Prandelli blames fitness, I blame prandelli he picks this crap! It really isnt physics. He seems to pick a team in the hope the players will get better or play better than there domestic performances. Unfortunately thats not the case. What has CP really done? He picks his formation for a game out of a hat. How many times has he 'tried' 433?? We got smashed in euro final using that very formation! The last game before WC and he still has no idea or system, formation and clearly players!
on the 6th March, 2014 at 9:29am
CP wont change very much from now til summer. Unfortunately what we saw last nite is his vision of italy. I mean hes had 4 years to change monty, osvaldo, gila, motta etc etc yet we see the saw lot game after game. His had great opportunities to draft in the imbo/destros/verratti' but hes never made them firm starters, his camp wont bring to many changes as he has no games left to give new players a run out, and as for his lottery of formation choices- 4 years of changes n he still has no idea!
on the 6th March, 2014 at 9:01am
Agree with MM on this one. I've Been saying it for the longest time, No Montolivo, No Motta, No Gilardino, We can also do without Osvaldo also. Prandelli experiments too much with the squads formation.........against Spain only 2 systems work 3/5/2 and 3/4/2/1,..... we need legs and grit on the field not old men. The Germans figured it out against barca and real madrid at club level and Brazil also at national level. So why can't Italy.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 5:51am
I knew we were going to get destroyed today when I saw which formation Prandelli planned on using. Pretty sad. Wake up Prandelli! You fool! A 3 CB system is our only hope. Paletta was awesome today and he has experience at Parma using that system. I'd also be interested to see Candreva at wing-back.

Barzagli Bonnucci Chiellini
Maggio De Rossi Pirlo Marchisio Giacherrini
Rossi Balotelli
on the 6th March, 2014 at 3:10am
When Italy used 3-5-2(Euro) and 3-4-2-1(Confed) against Spain they did well. When they used 4-3-1-2(Euro) and 4-3-2-1(Today) they did poorly. Notice a trend? Italy also did poorly (losing) against Brazil (confed cup) and Argentina (friendly) when they didn't use 3 CBS.When is Prandelli going to learn that against sides with more ball possession talent - Spain, Brazil, Argentina only a 3 CB formation will work!
on the 6th March, 2014 at 2:59am
Prandelli was open to calling Nesta, had he chosen to come out of international retirement. Prandelli would almost certainly call Totti, if he makes himself available again. This is Totti, yes. This is a player with Azzurri history and, again, this is Francesco Totti. But he has been retired for 7 1/2 years.

How many chances has Antonio Di Natale had with Prandelli? Based on domestic form, there are not 5 strikers in the world as good.

Paletta, Diamanti...Montolivo STARTING.

Stop it.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 2:21am
I love Prandelli but lol at his meritocracy. 3 1/2 years ago Prandelli began his tenure. At the time, Paolo Cannavaro was 29. Prandelli never once called him up, justifying the decision due to Paolo's age and thus inability to impact the long-term. In itself, the decision was absurd. But Cannavaro had no caps with the senior team, so I suppose it wasn't worth integrating a 29year old.

Paletta is 28. He is far from the best CB on his team. He is not as good as Paolo...and he is 28. Meritocracy?
on the 6th March, 2014 at 2:15am
Anyone's better than Monti - he didn't show much as usual! Paletta had a great debut. Pirlo is still our main man for creativity. CP has some big decisions to make, fitness levels compared to Spain, we looked lacklustre. Cerci did well though he was meant to be that 2nd striker, and why not start Immobile with him, they're playing gr8 for their club side.

Forza azzurri
on the 6th March, 2014 at 1:22am
I agree with you mm all the way and tony ITA be happy Parolo didn't see the pitch cause he's no good and the Spanish midfield would have made him look embarrassing. Some serious changes need to happen quick am happy that in a week Prandelli will be holding that camp with fresh faces and hopefully this guy wakes up and see what he's been missing. Spain dominated!
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:42am
At times it seemed Spain had more players on the pitch than Italy. Cerci was good, though CP should've started Immobile alongside him.. not to replace him. Parolo would have been a better choice than Monty.
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:07am
CP has no idea what hes doing, his favourite players are unfortunately our worse players, I mean what on earth is the elf from sunderland doing being put on ahead of insigne? Osvaldo is beyond crap, followed closely, very very closely by monto, motta, not to mention the other piles of crap that thankfully stayed seated! I wasnt even slightly shocked that we once again failed to score! Imob and destro looked good but have been given 30mns to make a difference, these players should av started!!!
on the 6th March, 2014 at 12:07am
best thing abou tonights game, Paletta!
on the 5th March, 2014 at 11:56pm
I have not been sure about Prandelli for a while now and his formations and recent squad choices have also left me baffled. Tonight's game is an opportunity to see if his side will actually make any impact in Brazil or if they'll just fizzle out with mediocre performances from uninspired players.
Italy need to take the game to Spain and play like a team that believe in the formation, something I haven't seen, ironically enough, since Italy played a 3-5-2 in Euro 2012 and drew 1-1 with Spain.
on the 5th March, 2014 at 8:57pm

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