BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
Italy boss Antonio Conte believes crossing swords with Scotland is the perfect preparation for doing battle with Ireland at upcoming European Championships.
The Azzurri head coach, who will take charge of English Premier League giants Chelsea following this summer’s showpiece in France, has dubbed Gordon Strachan’s side “physical”.
Conte has named a 30-man squad for the encounter against Scotland in Malta on May 29. He will trim that down to a list of 23 two days later.
Italy will take on Belgium, Sweden – who he likened to another of their pre-tournament friendly opponents, Finland – and Ireland in Group E of Euro 2016.
In the most talked about omissions from the party, there is no room for the like of Mario Balotelli or MLS duo Andrea Pirlo and Sebastian Giovinco.
Conte said: With Scotland, we will face a team which is also physical, like we expect from Ireland. This fixture will give us a better idea what to expect.”
Meanwhile, Italy stalwart Giorgio Chiellini is adamant France, Scotland’s friendly opponents in Metz on June 4, are favourites to lift the trophy on home soil.
The Juventus defender said: “I want to play France. Hopefully we meet them as late in the competition as possible. They are the hosts, I believe they are also the favourites to win the tournament, and so I hope to face them.”
Italy squad: Buffon (Juventus), Marchetti (Lazio), Sirigu (PSG), Astori (Fiorentina), Barzagli (Juventus), Bonucci (Juventus), Chiellini (Juventus), Ogbonna (West Ham), Rugani (Juventus), Bernardeschi (Fiorentina), Candreva (Lazio), Darmian (Manchester United), De Sciglio (Milan), El Shaarawy (Roma), Zappacosta (Torino), Benassi (Torino), Bonaventura (Milan), De Rossi (Roma), Florenzi (Roma), Giaccherini (Bologna), Jorginho (Napoli), Montolivo (Milan), Motta (PSG), Parolo (Lazio), Sturaro (Juventus), Eder (Inter), Immobile (Torino), Insigne (Napoli), Pelle (Southampton), Zaza (Juventus)