Body blow for Italy as playmaker Pirlo set to miss Brazil match

Andrea PirloItaly midfielders Andrea Pirlo, left, and Daniele De Rossi watch their teammates during a training session of Italy at the soccer Confederations Cup. (AP)

Ahead of their Confederations Cup Group A meeting on Saturday, both Italy and Brazil face injury worries in the centre of midfield. Both teams have already ensured a spot in the semifinals, but the match will decide the group winner. Because they possess a better goal difference than Italy, Brazil could finish first in the group with a draw at the Arena Fonte Nova, meaning they will likely avoid world and European champions Spain, who currently lead Group B.

Italy's star midfielder Andrea Pirlo will miss the game against Brazil with a strained right leg muscle, adding to coach Cesare Prandelli's problems in the centre of the pitch. Italy team physician Enrico Castellacci says he hopes Pirlo can return for the semifinals. But combined with the absence of Daniele De Rossi, who will also miss the Brazil game because of two yellow cards, it means coach Cesare Prandelli will have to overhaul his lineup. The absences mean Alberto Aquilani, who only lasted 30 minutes against Japan, could return to the lineup, as could Antonio Candreva and Alessio Cerci.

PAULINHO DOUBTFUL

Brazil's doctor, meanwhile, says it's too early to know if defensive midfielder Paulinho will recover in time from a left ankle sprain. Jose Luiz Runco said on Thursday that although the injury is not serious, it could keep the player from being fully fit to face the Azzuri.

Runco also said that defender David Luiz would undergo tests on his nose after he injured it during Brazil's 2-0 win over Mexico on Wednesday, but is expected to play against Italy regardless of the extent of the injury. The Chelsea defender was hit in the face while going for a high ball in the first half of the match against Mexico. He had to stay out of the game for nearly 10 minutes as doctors worked to contain the bleeding. "It was a bit swollen when he woke up, but even if the tests show that he has a broken nose, he will be able to play," Runco said.

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