How are a depleted Italy likely to line up at Euro 2016?
The Gentleman Ultra's Richard Hall talks to Team 33 about a side grouped with Ireland13:58 Wednesday 8 June 2016, 13:58 8 Jun 2016
Needless to say that Italy's Euro 2016 expectations are quite muted after losing two of their key midfielders ahead of a tournament in which they are grouped with Ireland.
As The Gentleman Ultra founder Richard Hall told us on this week's Team 33, "it's probably one of the worst Italian teams to grace a tournament in about 50 years".
So how is outgoing manager Antonio Conte likely to deploy them without midfield duo Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti in a tough Group E featuring Ireland, Belgium and Sweden?
"It's going to be a tough tournament for them, probably not to be underestimated. But at the same point, [the injuries] have actually changed the strategy that Conte might use because he's not got much to work with," said Richard.
With their strengths focused on the Juventus-based defence of Leonardo Bonucci, Luis Suarez's 2014 World Cup snack Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli in front of evergreen goalkeeper Gianluigi Byffon, the challenge lies elsewhere for Conte.
"You're right that the Juve back-line will be key whether he plays 4-3-3 or 3-5-2. Conte has actually said that what they're going to do is almost go back to the catenaccio style - the old defensive, holding the ball, move it about rather slowly at the back and absorbing quite a lot of pressure - and Italy have been trying to get away from that for the last five tournaments."
But the "workman-like" nature of the team he is taking to France means counter-attacking will be key with Graziano Pelle as the target man. Daniele De Rossi and Thiago Motta are contenders to hold the fort in midfield with Lazio's Antonio Candreva and Eder flanking Pelle. Roma's Alessandro Florenzi is also a likely starter.
But the lack of flair is evident without the playmaking qualities provided by Marchisio and Verratti.
"Even in the early '90s when they shut up shop, they still had the likes of [Roberto] Baggio and players like Aldo Serena who could do something and be really key players," Richard added, while he also explains why exciting Napoli inside-forward Lorenzo Insigne is likely to be relegated to the bench despite his ability to unlock defences.
Plus Richard also spoke of Italian expectations for the challenge posed by Ireland and their expectations about the tournament as a whole.
You can listen to the full interview on the podcast player, which also features a chat with Ray Houghton. It's also available to stream for free on iTunes:
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