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How Italy Will Set Up to Stop Argentina's Lionel Messi

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - FEBRUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of Argentina in action during the International Friendly match between Sweden and Argentina at the Friends Arena on February 6, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Matteo BonettiContributor IDecember 29, 2016

Ahead of Italy's friendly against Argentina, coach Cesare Prandelli will have his hands full trying to stop superstar Lionel Messi.

Even though recent doubts about Messi's fitness have sparked up in the media, expect the player nursing a muscular injury to get some time against the Azzurri.

Here are the Italian national team call-ups for this clash between world powers:

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon, Federico Marchetti, Salvatore Sirigu

Defense: Luca Antonelli, Davide Astori, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Lorenzo De Silvestri, Christian Maggio, Andrea Ranocchia

Midfield: Alberto Aquilani, Antonio Candreva, Alessio Cerci, Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Diamanti, Alessandro Florenzi, Emanuele Giaccherini, Claudio Marchisio, Riccardo Montolivo, Andrea Pirlo, Marco Verratti.

Attack: Mario Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy, Alberto Gilardino, Lorenzo Insigne, Pablo Daniel Osvaldo.

 

The newcomers to the team are Insigne and De Silvestri. The latter has never been used by the senior team until now.

In the midfield, expect a five-man line, including hard-hitting De Rossi and the energetic Marchisio, given the reigns to stop the opponent's best player.

As Prandelli showed against Spain, going with a 4-5-1 negates the opposing midfield and works wonders in stopping any cute passing in the center of the park. As we've seen from most Italian teams throughout history, they play better when facing stiffer rivals.

Before Messi had one of his better games against Milan in the Champions League, many thought that Italians finally had the potion to stop La Pulga. We've seen Messi disappear against Italian teams in the past, facing composed defensive lines that are tactically astute and high pressing. 

It will be interesting to see whether Prandelli elects to use one of his work-man like midfielders to shadow Messi and go to a man coverage type of scheme. 

In the end, the Azzurri pose a very real threat to Alejandro Sabella's Albiceleste. If the Azzurri can continue the form that saw them trouble Spain to such a great extent, they'll be able to carry over the momentum through these friendlies and to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

 

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