Midfielder Daniele De Rossi is the latest player to fall victim to Cesare Prandelli’s policy of not picking players suspended from their clubs. The Roma captain was sent off for punching Lazio’s Stefano Mauri in Sunday’s Rome derby and has been excluded from the Italian squad to take on France.
One man who has previously fallen foul of that rule is Mario Balotelli and the maverick Manchester City striker is expected to form an exciting partnership with Milan youngster Stephan El Shaawary. Balotelli, one of the stars of Italy’s run to the Euro 2012 final, has had a difficult start to the season as he has struggled to hold down a regular place in the Manchester City team.
It has been a very different story for El Shaawary. The 20-year-old has been the one shining light for a poor Milan side, as he has scored eight goals in 12 league games so far this campaign. El Shaawary looks likely to get a start because of an injury to Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo. Atalanta’s Federico Peluso is expected to get the nod at left-back, with Domenico Criscito another absentee.
Italy have made a solid start to their World Cup qualifying campaign, highlighted by a 3-1 victory over Denmark last month. Cesare Prandelli will be looking for his side to round out what has been an impressive year for himself and the Azzurri with a strong performance against a strong France side.
Didier Deschamps has made a positive start to life in charge of Les Bleus after taking over from Laurent Blanc following Euro 2012. After winning their opening two World Cup qualifiers, against Finland and Belarus, France secured a hugely credible draw in Spain last month courtesy of a late Olivier Giroud equalizer.
With Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema out injured, the Arsenal striker is likely to be given a start in Parma. Gael Clichy is also ruled out, while Deschamps looks set to keep faith with Hugo Lloris in goal, despite his continued lack of playing time with Tottenham.
D: Maggio, Barzagli, Chiellini, Peluso
M: Marchisio, Pirlo, Giaccherini
F: Balotelli, El Shaarawy
D: Debuchy, Yanga-Mbiwa, Sakho, Evra
M: Cabaye, Capoue, Matuidi
F: Menez, Giroud, Ribery
Prediction: The clash at the Ennio Tardini promises to be an intriguing one between two sides looking to push back into the true elite of European and world soccer. For both sides the key will be to get their playmakers on the ball; for France, Yohan Cabaye and for Italy, Andrea Pirlo.
The midfield around Pirlo, even with the absence of De Rossi, just looks to be that much stronger, however, and Italy should get a narrow victory.
Italy 2-1 France
Where to watch: The international friendly kicks-off at 2:50 p.m. eastern time. Coverage will be provided by RAI Internazionale. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, is available here.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.