Monday November 10 2014
Conte: Places up for grabs

Antonio Conte has encouraged his Italy squad to earn their spurs against Croatia and Albania, with so many established personnel absent.

In facing the media today as the Azzurri squad met for a first day of training, the Coach answered questions about his injury problems, which have resulted in a new-look squad.

These encompass Lorenzo Insigne’s recent set-back and the possibility of Daniele De Rossi appearing in central defence.

“It’s not a lucky time for us, as have so many injuries in defence,” Conte said at his Press conference today.

“Astori is out, Bonucci banned, Barzagli out and Romagnoli, who could have been with us, then there’s Giaccherini, Florenzi and Pirlo.

“Having said that, we’ll use this time to evaluate the other players. We’ll be sure to look at those who deserve a permanent place in this squad.

“El Shaarawy and Cerci between the lines? They are two alternatives out wide in attack. We want to try something that could lead to our wingers evading their markers.

“De Rossi as a central defender? Verratti isn’t doing great, he’s having an MRI scan on his adductor.

“I say that you should cut the talk of wanting us to try out new things. Let's see what decision I take after [Verratti’s MRI], whether he stays or not.”

Conte was asked about Domenico Criscito’s absence from the squad.

“He’s playing in Zenit, and we are following him. I think that when there’s a dearth of central defenders, it’d be more appropriate to call up a player who knows this kind of system.

“We’ll continue to monitor everyone.”

The CT was rumoured to be considering Lorenzo Insigne for his latest squad, but the 23-year-old is facing several months out now with a cruciate knee ligament injury.

“I’m sorry about that. I only heard about [his absence] while he was preparing for his operation.”

Conte then revealed how he spoke to his former boss and World Cup winner Marcello Lippi about Italy’s talent vacuum and made a startling comparison between past and present generations.

“This week I spoke with Lippi to congratulate him for a third consecutive League title, and he made ​​me think about the difficulties that we have in our League,” he added.

“He told me that during his time in Italy, 64 per cent of the players were Italian. Today, this figure has been halved.

“We have to be alarmed. We must understand the difficulties we are facing at domestic and European level.

“The problem is that we have to find a way to try to increase the Italian players in our League. For me, it would be a good thing because I have to make decisions.”

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