Immobile, Cerci lead charge of young Italian goal talent
14 April 2014, 19:18
Rome - Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has a striker selection headache ahead of the World Cup in Brazil with Torino pair Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci leading a surge of young Italian attacking talent.
The duo were the architects of Torino's last gasp 2-1 comeback against Genoa during the weekend's Serie A goalfest, scoring in the second and third minute of stoppage time to overturn Alberto Gilardino's 85th minute opener and snatch a crucial three points for their Europa League charge.
With Juventus playing Udinese on Monday night (1845 GMT), 36 goals have so far been scored in this week's Serie A fixtures.
There was also a stellar display from Chievo Verona's Alberto Paloschi, who scored two in a crucial 4-2 win at fellow relegation strugglers Livorno that left them five points clear of their hosts and the drop zone.
The total is the second highest of the season so far, behind the 43 goals scored in the second week.
Immobile's equaliser was his 19th of the season and makes him the league's current top goalscorer, one ahead of Carlos Tevez, who looks set to miss out on Juventus's trip to Udinese after being troubled recently with a thigh problem.
Immobile is also two ahead of Napoli's Gonzalo Higuain, who banged in a classy hat-trick in a 4-2 defeat of 10-man Lazio, and Hellas Verona's veteran hitman Luca Toni, who although almost 37 is making an unlikely push for a place in Brazil.
Immobile's total is impressive also because the 24-year-old does not take penalties. That duty is left to Cerci, who is level with Paloschi, Mario Balotelli and AS Roma's Mattia Destro on 13 goals - one behind Gilardino - and is the creative heart of Giampiero Ventura's side.
"I feel great here. I have two years left on my contract. Let's finish the season well and then I'll speak with (Torino president Urbano) Cairo," said Cerci following his dramatic winner, after which he was booked for ripping his shirt off with joy.
The wild celebrations at Turin's Olympic Stadium also led to goalkeeping coach Beppe Zinetti rupturing his Achilles tendon.
Immobile and Cerci have scored 32 of Torino's 49 goals between them, and are the most prolific strike partnership in the league, one ahead of Juve's Tevez and Fernando Llorente.
Immobile is part-owned by Juve, though, and fans are worried their local rivals could call him back at the end of the season.
"I'll do everything to keep this team together, keeping hold of who we need and helping to improve them," said Cairo.
With Giuseppe Rossi recovering from his latest injury setback and a rejuvenated Antonio Cassano having a superb season at Europa League-chasing Parma, Prandelli is going to have a tough time picking his preferred front line.
The Italy coach was hosting a 42-man session of potential squad members in a fitness test at training centre Coverciano over Monday and Tuesday, and all apart from Toni, Paloschi and Destro made the trip.
Destro was left out after receiving a three-game ban last week for punching Cagliari defender Davide Astori.
The 23-year-old Roma striker was omitted from the trip for violating Prandelli's ethics code, but is likely to be considered for the squad after scoring 13 goals in just 18 appearances.
Despite being the biggest name, Balotelli has if anything the most to prove. His form has been patchy all season and his place in the squad may be under threat.
Milan boss Clarence Seedorf backed his faltering striker despite a subdued display in a 1-0 win over bottom club Catania.
"I thought he played well, and he has changed from the way he behaved in the past," said the former Dutch international.
However, Balotelli should be hoping that Prandelli is not having second thoughts about bringing such a divisive figure now that so many promising youngsters are starting to mature into the real deal.