Southampton's Pelle set for Italy debut
Reuters

MILAN - Italy coach Antonio Conte is expected to give Graziano Pelle his Italy debut later Monday when the Azzurri face Malta looking for a third consecutive win in Euro 2016 qualifying.

Italy have won their opening two Group H games, away to Norway (2-0) and at home to Azerbaijan (2-1) on Friday when a wasteful Italy spurned several chances to put the match well beyond reach in the early stages.

Borussia Dortmund's Ciro Immobile and Simone Zaza of Sassuolo saw several chances go amiss in Palermo on Friday.

Conte believes Southampton striker Pelle's strength will give Italy more options up front.

"Pelle can be an important player for us," Conte told RaiSport.

"He's physical and that is important against teams who keep a lot of players back in the box.

"When it's like that you need a player who can hold the ball up well and bring others into play.

"We don't have players with those characteristics in our squad."

Italy had 22 shots against Azerbaijan on Friday but emerged with only a 2-1 win after Giorgio Chiellini scored all three goals including an own goal for the visitors late in the second half.

Conte, meanwhile, indicated he is set to make several changes, notably in midfield where Paris Saint Germain's Marco Verratti could step in for Andrea Pirlo.

"Pirlo did well against Azerbaijan, but he is coming back from a serious injury, so we have to evaluate the situation. Verratti is fit and in top condition to play," added the former Juventus handler.

Malta have lost both their Euro 2016 qualifiers and were beaten 3-0 by Norway on Friday.

But Conte has warned against complacency.

"I expect a tough game against Malta, as they played open and attacking football against Norway and were only beaten on the counter-attack."

jd/ak

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Southampton's Pelle set for Italy debut
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