NEWS
Thursday June 2 2011
Cassano-Rossi to lead Italy

Italy will face Estonia in Friday's Euro 2012 qualifier without a recognised centre-forward, boss Cesare Prandelli has confirmed.

The tactician has named his side for the Modena tie, but there is no target man despite the presence of Alberto Gilardino, Alessandro Matri and Giampaolo Pazzini in the squad.

"Buffon will be in goal, then Maggio, Ranocchia if he is fit – otherwise it will be Gamberini – Chiellini, Balzaretti, Pirlo, Montolivo, Marchisio, Aquilani, Cassano and Rossi," Prandelli revealed.

"Cassano and Rossi will start in attack. I've gone for a light pair up front as I don't want to give Estonia any points of reference.

"We saw in Tallinn that we managed to create problems for them with movement. It is a decision based on our opponents."

Rossi will be expected to provide the goals after his fine season at Villarreal, while Milan man Cassano will be asked to create – although he may not last the 90 minutes.

"Cassano can give 100 per cent and be decisive for an hour," the tactician continued.

"I'm convinced that he will be able to give an important contribution tomorrow. He's very attached to the blue shirt. His personality and exuberance will give us a great hand.

"There are players who are more tired than Antonio, but he is a proud player and I'm counting on that.

"At a slow pace he could last longer than an hour, but we will be playing at a high rhythm tomorrow."

There will be five Juventus players in the starting line-up on Friday, while Fiorentina's Alessandro Gamberini is on stand by if Andrea Ranocchia of Inter is not risked.

Italy lead Euro 2012 Group C by five points over Slovenia and Serbia, as well as having a game in hand over those two nations. A win for Italy would be a massive step towards qualification.

"That's why tomorrow's game is the most important of the season," added the Coach. "The three points mean a lot. I don't know if they will be enough to qualify, but they could be decisive."

Italy will be hot favourites, but Prandelli has respect for his opponents.

"We saw their game in Serbia where they won 3-1 thanks to some good football. They have very tall forwards who attack space.

"They have improved as a team. It's the end of the season, but I have asked the players for a last effort."

Italy 4-3-1-2 v Estonia: Buffon; Maggio, Ranocchia (Gamberini), Chiellini, Balzaretti; Pirlo; Montolivo, Marchisio; Aquilani; Cassano, Rossi

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