Antonio Conte needs to reconsider the Italy midfield for UEFA EURO 2016 after Claudio Marchisio was ruled out through injury – could he be set to call on an old colleague?
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With Claudio Marchisio out of UEFA EURO 2016 because of a knee injury, Italy coach Antonio Conte needs a Plan B for the Azzurri midfield.
Marchisio, capped 54 times by Italy, tore his anterior cruciate ligament playing for Juventus on Sunday and will not be available until October. This is a blow for Conte, exacerbated by the fact another key central midfielder, Marco Verratti, has not played for Paris Saint-Germain since mid-February due to a persistent groin problem.
If Verratti is fit, he surely starts this summer. But how does Conte replace Marchisio?
In the recent friendlies against Spain and Germany, Conte tried a 3-4-3 formation. Marco Parolo and Thiago Motta did well in midfield in the 1-1 draw against Spain, while Motta and Riccardo Montolivo, veterans of UEFA EURO 2012, struggled a few days later as world champions Germany condemned Italy to a 4-1 loss.
Parolo, known for his tendency to make attacking runs, is more similar to Marchisio but lacks the big-game experience of the 'Principino'. The 33-year-old Motta, a two-time UEFA Champions League winner, is certainly not lacking in playing time at the highest level and his club partnership with Verratti could work in his favour.
Could Jorginho be the answer?
However, Marchisio's injury could also convince Conte to switch to a three-man midfield and use a deep-lying playmaker. Jorginho, 24, has shined in that role for Napoli this season, earning him a full international debut as a late substitute against Spain. Daniele De Rossi has more high-profile football under his belt but has not been in particularly eye-catching form for Roma this season.
There's always Pirlo …
It is a tricky situation for Conte so it is not out of the question that he could call on a man he knows all too well from their Juventus days. Introducing Andrea Pirlo ...
Pirlo has fallen out of the picture since joining MLS side New York City last summer and will be 37 by the time UEFA EURO 2016 kicks off. However, he won three Scudettos under Conte while at Juve and knows exactly what the demanding coach requires of his players. Tellingly, he has never ruled himself out of the finals.
Could Marchisio's absence convince Conte that Pirlo should be given one last chance to strut his stuff on the biggest stage?