Daniele De Rossi is excited to be facing “idol” Steven Gerrard and warns Mario Balotelli it’s time he “took responsibility. He’s becoming a man now.”
The Roma star has played in defence and midfield for Italy during Euro 2012, but it’s not clear what role he will take in Sunday’s quarter-final.
“I know there were 20 million fans in front of the television for our game against Ireland, but I hope a few more can come to the stadium now,” he said in today’s Press conference.
“The problem is that Italy is going through a difficult time right now and not many can afford such a long journey. The English fans always travel en masse to follow their team, but whatever the ratio of supporters in the stadium, it’ll be 11 against 11 on the pitch.
“Gerrard has always been my idol and has been playing at a high level for years. England are very strong and play in an Italian style, also being very strong in defence. Perhaps we’d have preferred to face Ukraine, but this is fine.”
Balotelli knows the England players well from his two years in the Premier League, although the Manchester City striker hit headlines for his angry goal celebration against the Republic of Ireland. 
“We he can do well and the important thing is for Italy to put England under pressure, regardless of whether it’s him or someone else,” noted De Rossi.
“Mario can hurt any team and what counts is scoring goals. Is he an outsider in the group? I doubt that, though there are always some who are more in the thick of things. He looks fine to me, but at his age it’s normal that he should start to take responsibility and be treated like the others. He’s becoming a man now.
“At his age I went to the World Cup and elbowed someone... it was an incident that made me grow up.”
De Rossi could be re-routed to centre-back in the absence of the injured Giorgio Chiellini , but only if Italy return to the 3-5-2 system.
“Cesare Prandelli has faith in me and he proved that by moving me to the defence. He makes me interpret my role in a different way and I like that. Where will I play against England? I don’t know yet.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition  - £11,000 to be won monthly!