Italy's Verratti ready to fill Pirlo void against Bulgaria

Reuters , Thursday 26 Mar 2015

Midfielder Marco Verratti
Midfielder Marco Verratti, attends a press conference of the Italian national soccer team ahead of Saturday's Euro 2016, Group H qualifying soccer match against Bulgaria, at the Coverciano training center, near Florence, Italy, Wednesday, March 25, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Marco Verratti is ready to take advantage of an injury to Andrea Pirlo and show Italy boss Antonio Conte he can fill the void in the Azzurri midfield when the Juventus talisman eventually retires.

The Paris St Germain midfielder is expected to start in the Euro 2016 qualifier against Bulgaria in Sofia on Saturday with 35-year-old Pirlo ruled out due to a calf problem.

"It's very difficult to replace someone like Pirlo," Verratti told reporters.

"He's a true champion and once he's ready to comeback it won't be a tragedy if I go back to sitting on the bench. Even though we could play together at times."

Conte believes the fixture is a big opportunity for the 22-year old central midfielder, who played alongside Pirlo at the World Cup last year, to showcase his talents.

Verratti, though, is not worried by the expectation.

"I don't feel any pressure," he said. "I like pressure. When you're with the national team every match is an exam.

"I know what the boss wants from me. I've learnt a lot by spending time with him and from a tactical point of view he's the best manager I've ever had."

Italy have won three matches and drawn one to sit second on 10 points in Group H, behind Croatia on goal difference. After facing Bulgaria, Italy host England in Turin three days later in a friendly.

Verratti, who moved to France in 2012, said being out of the spotlight meant he had been able to make mistakes and learn from them without feeling the pressure he would have experienced if he had stayed in Italy.

"You're not given these opportunities in Italy," Verratti added.

"If a young player makes mistakes in a couple of games he won't be given a third chance. This is the main difference with other countries."

Verratti's form has attracted reported interest from many of Europe's top clubs but he hinted that his future remains in the French capital.

"When important teams come looking for you it's always a source of pride. A great future stems from a great present and my present is Paris," he added.

PSG are top of Ligue 1 and have qualified for the Champions League quarter-finals where they will face Barcelona.

Veratti was eyeing a showdown against Pirlo and Italian champions Juventus in the final of Europe's premier club tournament.

"I'd love to play the final against Juventus, in this way either I win or friends of mine will." 

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