Rafa Benitez has advised England on how to approach Andrea Pirlo and says they have the players to trouble Italy.
The Three Lions begin their World Cup campaign in Group D against the Italians on Saturday night, with particular attention in both camps being on how England may handle marking the Juventus midfielder.
Writing in his column for The Independent, Benitez has mused on that same subject himself.
“Of course we need to discuss him in some detail because we know he will probably be very dangerous in a place like Manaus when England start their tournament against Cesare Prandelli's team on Saturday,” the Napoli Coach has considered.
“The simple idea is to man-mark Pirlo. Simple in theory? Maybe. Simple in practice? No. Even if somebody like Danny Welbeck is sent on to the pitch with the job of stopping Pirlo – chasing and chasing, closing him down – the Italian will still have the ability to find space and put in the pass that can change everything.
“It was the same last season when my Napoli side played his Juventus team. We started with a strategy to stop Pirlo as much as we could, controlling the space around him and limiting the possibilities of him creating serious danger.
“Whatever you do against him, he will probably always have his moment to put in the important pass. ‘Thread it’ as I know you like to say. A very appropriate word!”
Benitez considered how he approached marking Pirlo during Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League Final penalty win over Milan.
“[What] was important about that game was approaching Pirlo with an attacking mentality. We also wanted [Harry] Kewell and Steven Gerrard to make use of the spaces either side of Pirlo – because despite his incredible talent he was not the quickest when acting as a defensive shield.
“We also wanted to double up in the wide areas, switching play fast from midfield to isolate one of the full-backs, who in Milan's diamond formation had to do all the work on the wings.
“England have the mix of players at this competition to have ambition, too, when approaching Pirlo and Italy. They don't need to live on their wits, as I think you call it, sitting and sitting and playing only on the counter-attack.
“They have the right mix of players – Gerrard and Wayne Rooney, experience; Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, pace and hunger – to take the ball and do their own thing, knowing that they can cause Italy a threat and be dangerous.
“Of course, it is always about the balance between defence and attack. As a manager you know that it always depends on what the other team do, too.
“Look out particularly for my Napoli player Lorenzo Insigne in the days and weeks ahead. He is a young player – not tall, but with pace and mobility who works on the left side, looking to go in-field. And he is not only dangerous because of his goals.”
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