Cesare Prandelli has never been afraid to change his tactics around from game to game. It was like that at Fiorentina, and it's been like that in his four years as Italy manager. So when you see something like this little piece of information right here...
In training now Prandelli is trying: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Darmian, Verratti, Pirlo, Marchisio, De Sciglio; Balo, Immobile— Azzurri (@ItalianNT) June 22, 2014
...pop up on your Twitter feed after waking up Sunday morning, you figure that Prandelli is on his way to ditch his 4-1-4-1 formation from the first two group stage games and channeling his inner Antonio Conte for Tuesday's decisive match against Uruguay. (We're still awaiting confirmation if Prandelli will also sport Conte's infamous rain-game cap, so check back.)
So just in case you thought it is too good to be true, visual evidence from Monday's training session that Italy are going all out like Conte's Juve for their upcoming game against Uruguay.
Based on the way his team played in Friday's 1-0 loss to Costa Rica, Prandelli going to a different look is more than understandable. He wants results and the squad he rolled out there three days ago didn't bring it. This isn't a case of 'It ain't broke so don't fix it.' This is a case of trying to fix what completely fizzed 10 feet out of the starting blocks against Costa Rica.
The good things about Prandelli going to a 3-5-2 formation?
- Andrea Pirlo will be able to return to his deep-lying role in the center of the midfield that he's so damn good at. Zonal Marking's Michael Cox questioned why Pirlo wasn't used in his natural role in front of the defense against Costa Rica — and it's totally logical as to why he did. We all wondered at the Pirlo passing stats against England, sure, but it's not like he replicated that success against Costa Rica. So with Italy's World Cup lives at stake against Uruguay, Pirlo should be exactly where he's been for years.
- Mario Balotelli won't be so isolated at the top of Italy's formation. In the first two group games, Super Mario has touched the ball 52 times — 27 against England, 25 against Costa Rica this past Friday. No really, that isn't a joke. Balotelli has touched the ball in two games combined about half of the amount of time Pirlo has in each game this 2014 World Cup.
But the hope is now with Ciro Immobile about to step into the starting lineup, Balotelli won't have just somebody to hang out with up top, but also give Italy another reference point in attack.
- Juventus' back three of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will be reunited once again. And we all know how they've played over the last three years as one collective unit. Some hiccups along the way? Sure. Overall product? Damn good.
The potential worrisome aspects about Prandelli going to a 3-5-2 formation?
- There won't be a natural destroyer amongst the midfield three with Daniele De Rossi all but likely being out of the lineup due to a calf injury he picked up on Friday. If it is a Verratti-Pirlo-Marchisio midfield trio like almost everybody says it will be, then it's not going to be one that has much steel. That will obviously put more of an onus on not only the back three of Barzagli-Bonucci-Chiellini, but somebody like Marchisio who has proven he can handle a more defensive role.
- Bonucci will be under the microscope because his first action in this World Cup is going to be in the center of the Italy defense. And much like is the case with Conte and Juve, there's no doubt Bonucci will be looked upon as a complimentary component to Pirlo when Italy looks to build the attack against Uruguay. It won't just be about defending with Leo tomorrow — which could be both a positive and a negative depending on who you ask.
- Italy need their fullbacks to deliver decent service — at the very least — to Balotelli and Immobile when they do attack from the wings. Mattia De Sciglio is expected to be back in the lineup, so that's a plus. But who really knows how he will really do considering he hasn't played a lick during his time in Brazil.
The biggest thing, regardless of three or four players playing in the Italy defense, is how the Azzurri manage to deal with Uruguay striker Luis Suárez and his insane goal-scoring form he's been in all year long. As he proved against England, he doesn't need to be totally 100 percent to be a total monster in the attacking third. You just hope Italy can contain him as much as possible because there's no way any team can fully control Suárez with the form he's on right now.
Sure, Italy don't need a win on Tuesday to advance to the knockout stages. But you just hope the another change in formation doesn't come back to bite Italy in the you-know-what. Prandelli is certainly hoping that the switch to the 3-5-2 has the same kind of impact it did two summers ago when his Azzurri made it to the Euro 2012 final.
Then again, so are we.