EURO 2016: Loew bracing for Italy’s surprise in quarterfinal clash

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BORDEAUX, France (AP) Germany coach Joachim Loew reckons Italy will try to catch his team out with an unexpected lineup when the two sides meet in their European Championship quarterfinal on Saturday.

Italy is sweating on the fitness of key midfielder Daniele de Rossi, who is laboring with a thigh injury, while his natural replacement Thiago Motta is suspended for the game in Bordeaux.

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Fellow midfielder Antonio Candreva is injured, and Claudio Marchisio, Marco Verratti and Riccardo Montolivo were all ruled out before the tournament, giving Italy coach Antonio Conte a major problem to solve.

And Loew is bracing for the possible answer.

“We have to assume that the Italians will want to surprise us, that they’ll do something with the starting formation we hadn’t expected,” the Germany coach said Friday.

“De Rossi is a very good player; he was injured. Of course it’s important for Italy that he plays, but Italy have several good midfielders. Italy always finds a good solution.”

Loew has a full squad of 23 players to choose from as he bids to secure Germany’s first ever win over Italy at a major tournament.

And he is not taking anything for granted, despite the Azzurri’s injury problems as they prepare to face Loew’s world champions.

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“The Italians are definitely at the same level,” Loew said.

Loew’s side was knocked out in the semifinal stage by Italy four years ago. He was assistant coach when Italy knocked Germany out of its home World Cup at the same stage in 2006. Of eight competitive meetings between the sides, Germany has won none.

Midfielder Mesut Ozil indicated that the players were tired of hearing about the past results.

“There was always the hype that we always failed against Italy in the big tournaments. But as a player you’re focused on the here and now. We want to show tomorrow that it can be different, that we can live with the Italians,” said Ozil, who pointed to Germany’s 4-1 win over Italy in a friendly on March 19 in Munich.

“We showed that we can beat Italy. The most important thing is to focus on ourselves, to play our game. We have the potential to beat any team,” Ozil said.