Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has defended his decision to start with seven Juventus players in tonight’s game against Bulgaria.
Prandelli’s Azzurri are being called ItalJuve and will play with a 3-5-2, but the tactician insists that he picks the team – and not Juventus tactician Antonio Conte.
“Conte has done a really good job,” the Coach, who led the country to the Final of Euro 2012, commented.
“But I called up Juventus players to the squad even before he began coaching there and I took some stick for that too – players like Sebastian Giovinco. I stand by my decisions.”
Giovinco, who has returned to Juve this summer after two years at Parma, will have the No 10 shirt on his back tonight.
“Giovinco claimed the jersey,” Prandelli added. “The players usually work these things out among themselves.
“He's a second striker. And then there's no real difference between having the No 9, 10 or 11 on your shirt. His jersey is not important, it is important that he is at the centre of the play.”
Giovinco will start in attack alongside Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo. “They are both in great condition. Even more so than the others, but everyone is fit.”
Italy will start qualification as favourites to win the group, but the former Fiorentina boss is not taking anything for granted.
“I'm concerned because everyone expects us to win this easily, whereas we play better when we are a little worried.
“The key word is qualification. Then we have to be consistent in our game and generous. We learned a lot at the Euros, but we have to be good at picking ourselves up again.
“We'll receive a 'warm' welcome as we are one of the teams to beat in Europe. It won't be easy, but we have prepared well.”
Prandelli also has respect for the opposition.
“Bulgaria are re-building a team and they are very aggressive. They spread the ball around well and field a 4-3-3 formation. Who worries me most? Popov, their centre-forward.”
Italy XI: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Ogbonna; Maggio, De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio, Giaccherini; Giovinco, Osvaldo