Italy have received an injury blow just two days ahead of their World Cup Group D opening match against England with the news that full-back Mattia De Sciglio has a problem with his right calf following Thursday’s training session in Mangaratiba.
The versatile 21-year-old, who plies his trade with AC Milan, was expected to line-up at left-back for Italy in Saturday night’s match against Roy Hodgson’s side. However, according to reports, the defender is currently undergoing tests in hospital to determine the extent of his injury. It seems there is a real risk that he won’t be fit in time to start in Manaus this weekend.
While news of any serious injury would come as a bitter blow to Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, who knows his side can ill-afford to get off to a slow start this summer, Hodgson will be buoyed if Italy enter the match without their first-choice left-back. The England boss may even decide to deploy the exciting 19-year-old winger Raheem Sterling, who made such a positive impact with Liverpool during the 2013/14 campaign, on the Three Lions’ right flank.
De Sciglio was expected to be one of the defensive stars of the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil. Manchester United and Real Madrid, meanwhile, were linked to the full-back earlier this year. It was claimed that Los Blancos had tabled a £15 million bid for the Italy international - although there’s little to suggest any deal will be completed until after this summer’s showpiece international tournament comes to an end.
If De Sciglio is ruled out of Saturday’s match through injury then he could be replaced by 24-year-old Torino full-back Matteo Darmian, a right-sided defender by trade but a player capable of playing on the left-hand side of a back four.
Darmian played a key role for a Torino side that finished seventh in Serie A last season, making 37 appearances, and made his Azzurri debut against the Republic of Ireland two weeks ago.
Prandelli may have reservations about throwing the former Milan youngster into such a crucial match, but the Italy head coach may find himself with little other option if tests reveal De Sciglio has sustained damage to his calf.