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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Azzurri ring changes

Antonio Conte
Antonio Conte

The good news for Ireland is that Italy boss Antonio Conte plans to make up to nine changes for his side to face Ireland in Lille on Wednesday night.

The bad news is that the B players he's bringing in are just as much of a threat to Ireland's hopes in our final group game, possibly our final game overall, in Euro 2016.

Already assured of a place in the last 16, Italy manager Conte can afford to give his big names a few days off this week to prepare for the knock-out stages next weekend and, acting on hints from the boss, the Italian media predict that only two of the side who started so far (midfielder Alessandro Florenzi and defender Andrea Barzagli) will start against Ireland.

One major injury concern is Antonio Candreva, the classy Lazio midfielder who has impressed so far but is carrying a knock and definitely will not be risked against Ireland, Gianluigi Buffon also rested.

Manchester United man Matteo Darmian as will his Premier League rival, West Ham's Angelo Ogbonna. Veteran Thiago Motta, a sub in the win over Sweden, has been tipped to start in the holding role while Roma midfielder Alessandro Florenzi is also likely to be used.

Up front, Shane Long will be denied a clash with club-mate Graziano Pellé as he is likely to be rested, Italy instead going with Torino man Ciro Immobile and Juventus' Simone Zaza up front.

Between then, the pair have only scored two goals at senior international level.

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