Mario Balotelli will
spearhead Italy's attack in their friendly match in Poland on
Friday after Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli praised the striker
for showing greater maturity.
The Manchester City player, in and out of the team as Italy
easily qualified for Euro 2012, was selected by Prandelli along
side Inter Milan's Giampaolo Pazzini in a new-look attack.
"Balotelli has an amazing future ahead of him but he mustn't
feel the weight of responsibility," Prandelli told reporters on
"It doesn't depend on one game for him. He has no need to
try to score lots of goals. He seems at ease and on the road to
maturity. It's no coincidence that he's doing brilliantly for
"A team, however well organised they are, has need of a
player like him, someone who can make the difference in the
Italy's new partnership of Balotelli-Pazzini replaces the
pint-sized strike force of Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi,
whose recent illness and injury setbacks respectively threaten
their presence at the European Championships in Poland and
Ukraine next June.
Cassano, who underwent surgery last week after the discovery
of a heart defect, could be out of the game for six months while
Villarreal's Rossi faces a similar period on the sidelines after
suffering knee ligament damage last month.
"I wanted to see if the tactical game-plan would work with
two bigger forwards," said Prandelli, whose side again features
four central midfielders. "Keeping the ball on the ground is key
without being forced into kicking the ball long."
AC Milan right-back Ignazio Abate is set to win his first
cap while Inter centre-back Andrea Ranocchia has also been named
in the provisional starting XI after Juventus' Andrea Barzagli
pulled out of the squad on Thursday with a calf injury.
Provisional starting XI announced by Prandelli:
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus); Ignazio Abate (AC Milan),
Andrea Ranocchia (Inter Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus),
Domenico Criscito (Zenit Saint Petersburg); Riccardo Montolivo,
(Fiorentina), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Andrea Pirlo
(Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus); Mario Balotelli
(Manchester City), Giampaolo Pazzini (Inter)
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