Italian football expert Paolo Bandini has spoken to STV about Italy’s chances in Euro 2012 and believes Cesare Prandelli is taking a big gamble by changing his team’s system.
Following an injury to key defender Andrea Barzaglia, Prandelli has indicated that he will move Daniele De Rossi from midfield into a back three, raising one of many questions about Italy’s prospects in Poland and Ukraine.
“It’s slightly difficult to know where Italy are at the moment because in their last two weeks they’ve had all the repercussions of the [match-fixing] scandal and have had Domenico Criscito taken out of the squad after his room was raided at the training base,” Bandini told STV.
“Barzaglia, one of their star centre-backs has gone down injured and in amongst all that the manager Cesare Prandelli has decided, after the 3-0 defeat to Russia in a friendly, to change to a 3-5-2 formation which he hasn’t used at any point up to now.
“So there’s a lot of uncertainty in that team and a lot of gambles being made.
“There’s a lot of questions around it but it’s also true that Italy haven’t lost a competitive game so far under Prandelli so there’s a real mixture of optimism on one hand and concern on the other.”
Italy sailed through their qualification group without suffering defeat, with a style based on ball retention. Ahead of their Group C opening game against Spain, many were anticipating a contest between two teams keen on maintaining possession.
De Rossi moving from midfield into defence would not be unique but it represents one of several gambles ahead of what will be a crucial match.
“It’s basically certain unless Prandelli is pulling some great big elaborate ruse because that’s how they’ve been playing in training in the last few days,” Bandini said.
“In every press conference he’s said how he believes De Rossi is the best suited to step into that central role now that Barzaglia is out injured.
“You could be optimistic about it and say it has worked for big players in the past. It worked for Oliver Bierhoff, for Matthias Sammer so it could be a great move.”
“He’s played a few games there for Roma this season with mixed results. He had one great game against Juventus and one not so good game in the return against Juventus.“
More important than the switch of personnel would be the change in dynamic.
“My concern is that you withdraw something from midfield and what also makes me anxious is that all through qualifying this is a team that based its game on holding possession and dominating the ball,” he explains.
“Italy had the second most possession to Spain through qualifying. But playing a 3-5-2 is a game based around a counter-attack, based around letting teams come on to you so it’s a very different style.”
“I think that adds as much of a concern as the physical act of moving De Rossi back.
“They were this possession team but now with a 3-5-2 you imagine a counter-attacking side because 3-5-2 doesn’t work any other way. I think they may be looking and trying to learn a lesson from teams who have done well against Spain, and against Barcelona because a lot of people tend to think they have a similar approach to the game.
“When you look at the teams that have beaten Barcelona in recent years it’s been teams that have sat back and invited them on. Perhaps they think there’s something to be learned there.”
In our full interview, which you can watch on the player at the top of the page, Bandini also discusses the prospects of seeing Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli playing against Spain and the cloud that hangs over the domestic game and how it could affect the squad.
You can watch Spain v Italy live online with STV from 4.30pm.
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