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Chiesa could be the answer to Mancini's striker conundrum

While hardly prolific for his country, Ciro Immobile has made Italy's central striker position his own under coach Roberto Mancini, so his absence for the upcoming UEFA Nations League Final Four tournament poses a conundrum for the Azzurri.

Moise Kean has been called up in his place, but another Juventus forward has also staked a claim to be Italy's striking focal point against Spain in Wednesday's semi-final, one not accustomed to playing through the middle.

Federico Chiesa, scorer of Italy's goal in their 1-1 draw with Spain in the Euro 2020 semi-final - a match the Azzurri went on to win on penalties before beating England in the final - could be another option for Mancini.

Normally deployed as a wide forward, Chiesa was so impressive in a central role for Juventus against Chelsea in last week's 1-0 Champions League victory in Turin, after scoring the winner and causing the holders all kinds of problems, that his own hard-to-please club manager may be forced into a rethink.

"That was the first time Federico had played centre forward," Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri told reporters after the match. "I’ve not given my take on how good a footballer he can become but on him playing up front.

"I think he'll ultimately become a striker."

In a performance that former Juve forward Alessandro Del Piero described as "lethal", Chiesa's direct running proved too much for Chelsea's defenders, with his bursts into the penalty area making him a real handful throughout the match.

With Immobile missing through injury, such a direct approach may persuade Mancini that Chiesa is an able deputy against Spain.

INEXPERIENCED ALTERNATIVES

Torino hitman Andrea Belotti, with 39 caps and 12 international goals to his name, would normally be the obvious Immobile replacement but he is one of four members from Italy's Euro 2020 squad overlooked for the Nations League finals.

Mancini, therefore, is looking for something fresh in attack.

The other options through the middle are Kean and Sassuolo's Giacomo Raspadori. Both 21-year-olds started in Italy's last match - a 5-0 World Cup qualification win over Lithuania - with Kean scoring twice and Raspadori once.

"Everything is in their heads and their feet. If they are committed and work seriously, they have great futures," Mancini told RAI after the match.

The present is a different matter, however, as a match against Spain is a much tougher proposition, and neither Kean nor Raspadori are in particularly good form.

Kean, who returned to Juve on loan from Everton last month having failed to make his mark on the English Premier League, was taken off at half time in his side's 1-0 derby win over Torino on Saturday for tactical reasons, while Raspadori has but one league goal to his name this term.

Chiesa is back fully fit after starting the season carrying an injury, and he has played a starring role in Juve overcoming their poor start to the season to win their last four in a row in all competitions.

After his winner against Chelsea last Wednesday, he was again played through the middle for Juve against Torino, registering an assist for Manuel Locatelli's late winner.

While he remains new to the role, those two performances showed Chiesa is more than capable of operating as a striker - something that will not have gone unnoticed by Mancini.

(Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Source: Reuters

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