They were teammates on Italy's team that reached the quarterfinals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but Saturday night in Turin they will be going up against each other in the center of the midfield when Juventus host Fiorentina.
Separated by one year and one day on their birth certificates, 24-year-old Riccardo Montolivo and 23-year-old Claudio Marchisio not only represent the future for their respective clubs, but they are also the future for their country.
They are two of the most talented midfielders to come out of the Italy youth ranks in years. Both players have incredible on the ball skill for players in their early 20s but are different kinds of players at the same time
However, they do have their differences.
Montolivo is the more offensive-minded of the two, getting forward more into the attack. He scores more goals, and because of that his performance is vital to the Viola getting positive results.
They do play in different systems, and as a result, Marchisio is the one with more defensive responsibilities. Because of that, he is the better defender and tackler between the two of them. He is the better passer and all-around player, and the comparisons between Marchisio and Marco Tardelli are completely legitimate.
Yet Montolivo has already achieved what Marchisio desires: a call from Marcello Lippi into the Azzurri squad.
Marchisio will be one of the key contributors to Italy's U-21 Euro 2009 team, likely the last time he will put on the Azzurrini jersey. But it won't take long for Lippi to come calling. As the season has gone on, Marchisio has established himself in the Juve lineup, something that few players his age can say.
With crucial players missing from both squads, both the midfielders' performances will be more important than usual.
Fiorentina are entering the trip to Turin losers of their past two games, and without star striker Adrian Mutu, they have lacked the offensive punch they usually have. Add to Fiorentina management selling two talented young strikers, Giampaolo Pazzini and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, Montolivo will have to be even more involved in the offense than he usually is.
If the Viola want to win, Montolivo will have to be a source of offensive output.
The same can be said for Marchisio, who will be without normal midfield partner Momo Sissoko because of yellow card accumulation. He will likely be paired with another defensive-minded midfielder, Cristiano Zanetti.
So if Juve manager Claudio Ranieri wants some offense from his midfield, Marchisio will be the guy to get the offensive engine going.
However, when they meet on the Stadio Olimpico turf tomorrow, a future central midfield combination for Lippi and his Italian squad will be on display.
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