FIFA Confederations Cup Preview: Mexico v Italy
Mexico tackle Italy in their first FIFA Confederations Cup outing at the refurbished Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.Italy may be without 20-year-old striker Stephan El Shaarawy after he failed to train on Thursday because of a muscle injury.With that in mind, coach Cesare Prandelli will most likely opt for the attacking trio of Claudio Marchisio, Emanuele Giaccherini and El Shaarawy's Milan team-mate Mario Balotelli to test the Mexican defence.
Balotelli had also been an injury doubt for the game, but Prandelli expects the former Manchester City man to be fit enough to lead the line.
"As far as Mario goes, there's a good chance he'll be on the pitch tomorrow. Let's wait for the last training session, although the feedback we're getting seems to be very positive," he said.
Prandelli went on to admit that his players cannot wait to take to the field at the iconic Maracana arena.
"We are very excited to play in the Maracana - a place we have always been dreamed about. We want to put in a great performance and win this game," the former Fiorentina boss added.
Despite boasting just one defeat in 11 past encounters with Mexico, Prandelli warned his players of the sort of defensive complacency that saw them draw 2-2 with tiny Caribbean nation Haiti in a friendly earlier in the week.
"We'll be starting against Mexico, who tend to play with lots of intensity, combining technique with speed. The Mexicans aren't here by mistake - they have quality in their team, particularly in attack," he added.
Mexico have struggled for form of late, but Italy sit atop their FIFA World Cup qualification group and look set to seal an automatic place at next year's showpiece in Brazil.
By contrast, Jose Manuel de la Torre's side have scored just once in their last four qualifying games, but with Javier Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos and Andres Guardado heading their attack, there will undoubtedly be some tough questions asked of Italy's defence.
The match could be the tightest affair in the opening round of games which sees hosts Brazil take on Japan, Spain meet Uruguay and Nigeria taking on Tahiti.