Any game between Italy and France has a “special taste,” Azzurri captain Gianluigi Buffon said of today’s international friendly to be played at the Ennio Tardini Stadium in Parma, Italy.
“France remain a strong nation in European football, one that is always capable of playing at a high level,” Buffon told French daily Le Parisien. “Playing against France is like playing a derby.”
Beaten Euro 2012 finalists Italy, despite successive World Cup qualifying wins over Malta, Armenia and Denmark, have impressed only in patches.
Cesare Prandelli’s side will be missing hot-headed midfielder Daniele de Rossi, who has been left out after he punched Stefano Mauri during Sunday’s Rome derby.
Emanuele Giaccherini of Juventus will likely take De Rossi’s place and play alongside club teammates Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo, along with AC Milan’s Riccardo Montolivo.
Prandelli has a wealth of options up front, with local media reports suggesting that Serie A’s joint top scorer Stephan El Shaarawy of AC Milan is favorite to start in attack alongside Mario Balotelli.
AS Roma forward Pablo Osvaldo will miss the match after limping out of training on Monday with an ankle injury.
France will hope to continue the momentum from a fine second-half display that saw Olivier Giroud score deep into stoppage-time to secure a 1-1 draw with world and European champions Spain in a World Cup qualifier last month.
“As I have told the players, we’re neither better nor worse than before the Spain game. We can’t say that we’re at the same level than the European champions or the Euro runners up [Italy],” coach Didier Deschamps said.
Deschamps has recalled playmaker Yoann Gourcuff after he was left out of the Euro 2012 squad by then-coach Laurent Blanc.
“He is an inventive player and I do not need to tell you about his technical skills. He is able to make the others play well,” Deschamps said. “He has been enjoying a nice time with Lyon and I wanted to see him in this group before the important matches scheduled next year.”
Fullbacks Christophe Jallet and Gael Clichy have pulled out injured, with Deschamps calling up Olympique Lyonnais’ Anthony Reveillere and the uncapped Benoit Tremoulinas of Girondins de Bordeaux.
Italy were due to play Luxembourg in Parma in May, but the game was canceled after the Emilia-Romagna region was hit by earthquakes which caused massive damage to the north of central Italy.