Italy not taking Ireland Euro 2016 game lightly, says Conte

Lille (France) (AFP) – Italy will not take their foot off the gas in Wednesday’s Euro 2016 clash with the Republic of Ireland despite already being through to the knockout stage, coach Antonio Conte promised.

Having won their opening two games against Belgium and Sweden, the Azzurri have already been confirmed as winners of Group E and are preparing for a last-16 tie at the Stade de France next Monday.

Ireland, meanwhile, have to win the game at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy if they are to go through and will hope to take advantage with Conte set to make possibly as many as nine changes to his line-up.

“It’s not a useless game by any means. It is an important fixture and one we want to win. Winning breeds confidence and self esteem,” Conte told reporters on Tuesday.

“This is a match for those who have played a little less than others. I am very calm because I know those I pick will give absolutely everything.

“I will try to pick a balanced side otherwise we are in danger of having problems.”

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said he has recovered from illness but is unlikely to start, with Salvatore Sirigu of Paris Saint-Germain ready to step in.

“I am very well. I only had a bout of flu for three or four days (but) I don’t think I’m going to play and I think that’s quite right too,” said Juventus veteran Buffon.

Midfielder Antonio Candreva, who has been troubled by a groin problem, will also miss the game but Conte is confident of having the 29-year-old Lazio player back for next week.

“Antonio is working. He trained yesterday (Monday) and did very well this morning,” Conte said.

“If I’m honest I’m quite confident with regards to him returning for the next match. That said, we will still look at and assess alternative options.”

Federico Bernardeschi of Fiorentina and Stephan El Shaarawy are candidates to come into the side, while Juventus striker Simone Zaza is a contender to play in attack.

But Conte played down the significance of his planned changes, saying “I don’t want a rupture in the squad. There are no starters or substitutes. Here we have 23 players and a coach and staff who all win together.”

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