Balotelli misses out as Conte names Italy squad

Balotelli misses out as Conte names Italy squad
Italy coach Antonio Conte left Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli on the sidelines again as he named a 26-man squad for upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Malta.

Italy, who crashed out of the World Cup at the first round for the second successive time last summer, began their Euro campaign with a 2 0 win over Norway last month.

Balotelli had been left out of Conte's squad for the trip to Oslo and, amid a mitigated start at Anfield for the former Milan striker, and he has once again been left on the sidelines.

Former Juventus handler Conte, who succeeded Cesare Prandelli as Azzurri coach after the World Cup, handed Southampton striker Graziano Pelle his first call-up among a front line which also includes Simone Zaza — who scored Italy's opener against Norway — Sebastian Giovinco, Mattia Destro, Pablo Osvaldo and Ciro Immobile.

The other big surprise to the squad is the inclusion of 20-year-old Empoli defender Daniele Rugani among a backline which includes established names like Juve trio Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Angelo Ogbonna as well as Inter's Andrea Ranocchia.

Fiorentina's Alberto Aquilani, meanwhile, has been named among a star-packed midfield which notably features Antonio Candreva, Alessandro Florenzi, Claudio Marchisio, Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti.

Italy host Azerbaijan in Palermo on October 10 before facing Malta away four days later.

Italy squad for upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint Germain). Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter), Daniele Rugani (Empoli)

Midfield: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Macro Parolo (Lazio), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina), Andrea Poli (Milan), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint Germain), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain)

Strikers: Mattia Destro (Roma), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (Inter), Graziano Pelle (Southampton/ENG), Simone Zaza (Sassuolo)

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