With Italy safely through to the Euro 2016 knockout stages as group winners, they could be forgiven for taking the foot off the gas a bit ahead of Wednesday’s final group game against the Republic of Ireland.
Outgoing Azzurri boss Antonio Conte has already said on record that he will use the match in Lille as an opportunity to rotate the side, allowing the squad’s fringe players to get some minutes while keeping the first choice lineup fresh for the last 16.
To that end, Italian publication Gazzetta Dello Sport have revealed what they think will be the starting lineup for the match, predicting nine changes in all from the side that beat Sweden 1-0 in Toulouse on Friday.
Among the players to drop out, as per the report, will be legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The 38 year old is likely to be rested with PSG’s Salvatore Sirigu expected to come in to replace him.
In defence, Andrea Barzagli is likely to keep his place, with West Ham’s Angelo Ogbonna and Matteo Darmian, having sat out Friday’s match after starting their first, coming in to complete the defensive trio with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini missing out.
In midfield, Alessandro Florenzi is the only other player expected to remain in the starting eleven, with Roma clubmate Stephan El Shaarawy, Thiago Motta, Stefano Sturaro and Mattia De Sciglio expected to get the nod.
Out go Marco Parolo, Daniele De Rossi, Emanuele Giaccherini and Antonio Candreva.
Up front, meanwhile, Éder and Graziano Pellè, who have a goal each in this tournament, are expected to be replaced by Simone Zaza and Ciro Immobile.
Interestingly, the report also states that Conte could perhaps go with a 4-4-2 formation on Wednesday. The personnel would remain the same but the structure would be different.
Given the manager’s penchant for utilising players wherever he sees fit, it’s hard to nail down exactly how that would look, but below is a rough estimate of how they should line up:
Despite the above, it would not be a surprise to see Florenzi moved back into defence with De Sciglio or Darmian in midfield, should the mood take Conte.
The good news for Ireland is that this is certainly not as strong as the sides which beat Belgium and Sweden – the bad news is that it is still a very formidable lineup.
Read More About: Alessandro Florenzi, andrea barzagli, angelo ogbonna, ciro immobile, eder, Euro 2016, gianluigi buffon, graziano pelle, Ireland, Italy, leonardo bonucci, Martin O'Neill, matteo darmian, salvatore sirigu, simone zaza, Stefano Sturaro, stephan el shaaraway, thaigo motta, Top Story