Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Italy vs Argentina
No sooner had white smoke emerged from the conclave room at the Vatican and Argentine cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio been presented as Pope Francis, than Italy coach Cesare Prandelli was plotting a friendly match to pay tribute to the new pontiff.
Prandelli's Azzurri will take on Alejandro Sabella's star-studded Argentina side in Rome on Wednesday in perhaps the most tantalizing international fixture of the week.
Sadly, draw cards Lionel Messi and Mario Balotelli are out of the match through injury, but there are still plenty of big names taking the pitch.
Will the Italian hard men such as Daniele De Rossi and Giorgio Chiellini be able to keep a lid on the albicelestes' glamour boys like Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero, and Angel Di Maria?
Can Andrea Pirlo or Stephan El Shaaraway produce a moment of magic to unlock Argentina's improving defense?
Striker Mario Balotelli misses out for Italy with a swollen knee so Roma forward Pablo Osvaldo is expected to step into the Azzurri line-up alongside Alberto Gilardino. Defender Andrea Barzagli has also been ruled out with an Achilles problem.
Argentina will be without Lionel Messi for the game at the Olimpico after the Barcelona star pulled out with a thigh strain. Internazionale striker Rodrigo Palacio is the World Player of the Year's likely replacement. Erik Lamela is also a doubt with a thigh problem but Gonzalo Higuain and Angel dD Maria are expected to feature.
Cesare Prandelli: "The match against Argentina has special meaning because it is our welcome for Pope Francis. The two teams are staying in the same hotel and the atmosphere has to be one of a party spirit for everybody. I hope the Pope comes to watch the game. We want to build some continuity from the hard work we did at the Confederations Cup and show that kind of balance through the entire game. That would represent a success."
Alejandro Sabella: "I have not confirmed the team yet. I have some players with aches and pains that trained separately. We'll see if they can rejoin the squad and from there we will decide the team."