Euro 2012: How Italy Can Utilize Daniele De Rossi Against Spain

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Euro 2012: How Italy Can Utilize Daniele De Rossi Against Spain
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

At midweek, speculation was swirling that Daniele De Rossi might convert to the defensive line as cover for the injured Andrea Barzagli in the Italy defense.

On Friday, De Rossi confirmed the move, as Euro 2012 gets underway.

The 3-5-2 formation will not be unfamiliar to the Juventus players, as it was the weapon of choice for The Old Lady this season. The challenge, however, is getting De Rossi into the right positions to make it work.

Juventus featured Barzagli on the right of the three central defenders. De Rossi could very easily fill the role, especially if he is allowed to chase a little bit with additional cover behind him.

With a back three, and three midfielders in front, the Italians now have a better chance at eliminating some of the space that Spain would normally look to exploit between the lines.

This strategy served Chelsea well in their Champions League victory over Barcelona.

The wingbacks could also help clog the middle of the pitch if the Spaniards decide on a more central approach, while watching the flanks for the fullbacks trying to break down the wings.

The shift would have more repercussions out wide, as Italy might then feature some wide play in their attacks. Andrea Pirlo will become ever more vital as, in all likelihood, the tip of the 4-4-2 diamond will be sacrificed to keep two forwards on the pitch.

Pirlo might be given avenues to spread play if the Spaniards play similar to Barcelona. If he sees that the fullbacks are forward in Spain's pressing system, Pirlo will have the option to try and hit balls over the top.

Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Initially, with two forwards, he would have been forced to play them narrow, but with the presence of wingbacks Frederico Balzaretti and Christian Maggio, Pirlo can try and hit these options from the sides, which Chelsea did to devastating effect in the Champions League semifinal.

The change also puts a greater emphasis on the other two midfield players, who will be forced to shield a back three while also linking play through the middle of the formation.

Claudio Marchisio is already in one of those positions, but naming the other will be important. Cesare Prandelli may choose to mover Riccardo Montolivo back as the other midfield option, but the Italy boss also could use Thiago Motta if he feels the need to replace De Rossi.

Ball possession will become perhaps the most important aspect of the change, however. This will still be difficult against the Spaniards but, in a more familiar setting, it might prove to be a stroke of genius.

If Pirlo is given the time and protection to move the ball around, Italy becomes a much more dangerous outfit to deal with and, in a system he ran to perfection during this last campaign, a comfortable rhythm from Italy's master passer is a dangerous deal for any squad in the world.

In any instance, the decision to make a move to a 3-5-2 may be just a ruse, but given the circumstances and the players at Prandelli’s disposal, it would make a great deal of sense and might just give the Italians the element of surprise against Spain.

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