sport

Rossi to start against Irish

Fiorentina forward Giuseppe Rossi will bid to secure his place in Italy's World Cup squad when Cesare Prandelli's side play the Republic of Ireland on Saturday.

The teams meet in a friendly at Craven Cottage and Rossi, who has only just returned to fitness after four months out with a knee ligament injury, is set to partner Ciro Immobile in attack.

Italy will kick off their World Cup campaign against England on 14 June and Rossi has been named in Prandelli's provisional squad.

And the 27-year-old could make the final 23-man squad if he comes through Saturday's match unscathed.

"From what I've seen so far, I expect a big game from Rossi," said Prandelli. "He has passed all the fitness tests and we've had positive signs from him in training.

"However, we have to consider how he will react from a psychological standpoint to contact.

"Rossi has been working to prepare in the best possible way for this game.

"In a way, for him the game against Ireland is as though it was his first World Cup game."

Prandelli has announced a much-changed starting XI and Paris Saint-Germain's Salvatore Sirigu will be in goal.

Torino's Matteo Darmian will make his debut in defence alongside Gabriel Paletta, Leonardo Bonucci, and Mattia De Sciglio.

And the PSG duo Marco Verratti and Thiago Motta will join Claudio Marchisio and Riccardo Montolivo in midfield.

Prandelli added: "This is not an experimental game.

"It's a game that gives us the opportunity to analyse the tactics that we will put out on the pitch.

"We have a group of players that are all more or less at the same level. They are all fit and ready, they have all worked with the maximum dedication."

He is expected to name his squad for Brazil on Sunday and said: "It's the most difficult aspect of my job. I have seven strikers and I will have to drop two.

"My choices will be based on the approach that we want to have on the pitch."