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Daniele de Rossi’s going to play central defense for Italy? It looks that way.

Jun 5, 2012, 5:52 PM EDT

Italy Training Session & Press Conference Getty Images

The idea of Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli going 3-5-2 for Euro 2012 has been floating around for a while. His personnel  forces the consideration, and after the Azzurri was smoked by Russia on Friday (losing 3-0), Prandelli seems ready to shake things up.

In truth, the change is motivated less by the Russia result than the availability of Andrea Barzagli. The Juventus defender has picked up a calf problem that could sideline him through group stage.

With natural central defender Giorgio Chiellini potentially moving left to cover for the absence of Domenico Criscito (who is not being let back into the team), the pickings are becoming slim in the middle. However, if Italy went 3-5-2, they could use Daniele de Rossi in central defense.

De Rossi just finished a season playing the Sergio Busquets role in the Barcelona-esque system Luis Enrique tried to install at the Stadio Olimpico. He also spent some time doing a Javier Mascherano impression in central defense.

The change is not even as drastic as all that makes it out. The 3-5-2, as Prandelli would implement it, is little more than the attacking shape you’d get with de Rossi at the base of a 4-4-2 applied to other phases of the game. Right wing back Christian Maggio and proposed left wing back Federico Balzaretti would become fullbacks in the defensive phase, with Chiellini and (potentially) Torino’s Angelo Ogbonna supporting de Rossi.

Beyond the Barzagli motivation, there switch could serve a couple of other purposes. First, Italy’s first opponent in Euro 2012 is Spain, against whom a 3-5-2 would have a number of virtues: three-man midfield (and, in general, more players in the middle of the park); getting another great person on the ball in the back line; providing more ways to maintain the possession advantage Italy’s become accustomed to (and may need to advance). Second, it would allow Prandelli to maintain a more natural shape in midfield, with Riccardo Montolivo and Antonio Noccerino supporting Andrea Pirlo. Forcing de Rossi into the midfield throws off the balance.

Then again, Prandelli could just be preparing for Spain, using all this formation speculation to provide a smoke screen.

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

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