Prandelli to ring changes for Italy
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is set to ring the changes after a tense and "insufficient" display against Bulgaria has left the Azzurri desperately seeking a win against Malta on Tuesday.
Four days after escaping with a 2-2 draw in Sofia, Italy host the islanders in Modena in a World Cup 2014 qualifier that most expect the 2006 champions to win.
Malta sit a lowly 139th in the Fifa world rankings and have scored only two goals against Italy, to the Azzurri's 15, from the teams' four previous encounters.
But although a win would appease the home camp, Prandelli is unlikely to be satisfied unless Italy start showing they have the mettle for a 10-match campaign which ends at home to Armenia in a little over a year's time.
In Sofia, Luboslav Penev's side regularly exposed Italy's fragile 3-5-2 tactical formation, which Prandelli changed to a 4-3-1-2 late on in a bid to stem the tide.
And after several players were seen arguing, Prandelli – who is still missing Inter Milan forward Antonio Cassano (fitness) as well as Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli (eye operation) – is set to come down hard.
Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco was unconvincing in Sofia and could be replaced by Mattia Destro, who would play just behind Roma striker and teammate Pablo Osvaldo, the scorer of both goals on Friday.
Attacking midfielder Alessandro Diamanti of Bologna, used sparingly at the Euro 2012 but who scored the winning penalty in a 4-2 quarterfinal shoot-out over England, could also make an appearance.
Changing to a 4-3-1-2 would also means making changes in defence.
"A lot of things went wrong (against Bulgaria), so much so that on Tuesday we might repeat the 4-3-1-2 against Malta and bring on Diamanti and Destro," Prandelli said.
"Our performance was totally insufficient, and that includes myself. We suffered a lot, we conceded far too many corners, played too many long balls and that is simply not befitting of our national team."
Prandelli will have to be without versatile midfield veteran Daniele Di Rossi, who injured a thigh muscle late in their opening qualifier.
But other developments mean Fiorentina's Mattia Cassani could replace Napoli's Christian Maggio at right-back with Federico Peluso coming in for Emanuele Giaccherini, the centrepiece in the 3-5-2.
Against Bulgaria pitchside microphones picked up tense exchanges between defender Leonardo Bonucci and midfielder Andrea Pirlo, as well as instructions being given to Maggio and Giovinco on their positioning.
Without naming names, Italy captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon later hit out at a player who "talked a bit too much".
He added: "Bulgaria showed they have a really good team but the way we played gave them confidence as well."
Less than two months after a surprise Euro 2012 final appearance in which Italy were humbled 4-0 by Spain, Prandelli is desperate to get the players he does have at his disposal working as a team again.
"It's not a good sign when players are arguing on the pitch, it shows you have lost your calm, your serenity and the quality of your game also suffers," added Prandelli.
Italy are widely expected to qualify from a group B which as well as Bulgaria and Malta also includes Denmark, the Czech Republic and Armenia.
Prandelli, 55, added: "We are Italy, and we must characterise something more than a simple tactical model.
"On Tuesday we have to rediscover our identity."