Italy will be without goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon for Wednesday’s meeting with Republic of Ireland and Antonio Conte is worried about the state of the Lille pitch.
Wins over Belgium and Sweden have already assured Italy of qualification to the last 16 as Group E winners, regardless of the result against Martin O’Neill’s men, who need a win to have any hope of advancing.
With top spot secure, Conte is expected to make several changes to his starting XI, with one of those certain to be Buffon, who has been struggling with flu.
“Gigi has had a high temperature, today’s the day he joined back up with the squad so I hope to get him back fit and firing,” Conte said in Tuesday’s pre-match media conference.
“All of my decisions are pondered, and not because we’re taking the match lightly by any means. There will be some decisions made that show how much this game means to us.
“It’s important for us, we want to win and keep going because winning breeds confidence.”
“I’ve had a bout of flu for a few days before the Sweden game, I don’t think I’m going to play and I think that’s quite right too,” added Buffon.
Conte, who reported that Antonio Candreva was recovering well from a hamstring problem, expressed his concerns over the state of the pitch at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, which is due to be ripped up and re-laid ahead of the knockout phase.
“The playing surface isn’t suitable, it isn’t up to hosting a European Championship match,” Conte said.
“It’s not in the best state. I don’t like coming up with excuses for my players because we’ll both play on it.
“However, we did expect a different pitch to this one and it’s a shame because the Euros have been organised very well thus far and it’s not up to the standard of this competition.”
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