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Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni is preparing a tactical reshuffle as his side look to recover from an inauspicious start against free-scoring Sweden at the Estádio do Dragão on Friday.
Runners-up in the Low Countries four years ago, Italy travelled to Portugal confident of going one better this time around, but Monday's goalless draw with Denmark did little to spur that belief. Their inability to break down a well-organised Danish team, coupled with a three-match suspension to key forward Francesco Totti, has prompted Trapattoni to rethink his offensive strategy.
The veteran coach employed a 4-2-3-1 formation throughout the Azzurri's qualifying campaign and again against Denmark, but could opt for a more compact 4-3-3 against a Sweden side that put five goals past Bulgaria. AC Milan duo Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso are set to step into a three-man midfield with Cristiano Zanetti, as Simone Perrotta and Mauro Camoranesi drop to the bench. Pirlo will play a pivotal role in the centre where his creativity should offer Italy an extra dimension.
The inclusion of Gattuso, singled out for praise by Trapattoni after coming off the bench against Denmark, would give the midfield more punch. In attack, Alessandro Del Piero and Antonio Cassano are likely to be given free roles behind Christian Vieri. Del Piero is the only national-team regular who also started when these sides met at UEFA EURO 2000™, scoring as the Azzurri ended Swedish hopes of reaching the quarter-finals with a 2-1 win.
Del Piero will be hoping to repeat his feats from Eindhoven on Friday after struggling on the left wing against Denmark. Indeed, the biggest cheer from the Italian fans in Guimarães came when Cassano replaced Del Piero and much will be expected of the 21-year-old AS Roma player if selected.
In contrast, Sweden look set to stick with the same formation and virtually the same lineup that won their opening game so impressively. Teddy Lucic has not recovered from a rib injury sustained in Lisbon so Mikael Nilsson will continue to deputise at right-back, with RSC Anderlecht's Christian Wilhelmsson starting on the right side of midfield.
'A great experience'
Wilhelmsson, 24, has limited experience at international level but combined with Nilsson to good effect on Monday. "He has got what it takes to succeed at this level," Nilsson said of his team-mate, while Wilhelmsson added: "If I get to play against Italy it will be fantastic, a great experience."
Sweden co-coaches Tommy Söderberg and Lars Lagerbäck are hoping their side will enjoy some success in the wide areas - particularly if Italy line up in a narrow 4-3-3. Fredrik Ljungberg, who opened the scoring against Bulgaria, will start on the left of a midfield diamond, with Tobias Linderoth playing at the base and Anders Svensson fighting off competition from Kim Källström for the playmaker role.
Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will continue their attacking partnership, which has already yielded three goals, as Sweden go in search of the win that would seal their place in the last eight. "A point would be OK, but rest assured, we are going for all three," said Linderoth of Everton FC.
The feeling in the Sweden camp is that the opening stages will define the pattern of the game, with Linderoth stressing: "The first 15-20 minutes will be crucial. It's important that each and every player in our side works very hard and stops the Italians from having too much of the ball."
Italy (probable): Buffon; Panucci, Cannavaro, Nesta, Zambrotta; Gattuso, Pirlo, Zanetti; Del Piero, Cassano; Vieri
Sweden (probable): Isaksson; Nilsson, Edman, Mellberg, Jakobsson; Wilhelmsson, Linderoth, Svensson, Ljungberg; Ibrahimovic, Larsson.
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