Balotelli's place in doubt as Italy prepare for England clash

Mario Balotelli Italy

Cesare Prandelli's Italy squad trained on Wednesday before their Brazil World Cup Group D clash with England, with former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli unsure of his place.

Arsenal target Mario Balotelli may miss out on Italy's World Cup opener against England, with Parma forward Antonio Cassano take his spot up front.

The 23-year-old's mediocre form for Italy heading into the tournament has called his place into question, and it remains to be seen whether Italy manager Cesare Prandelli trusts the enigmatic frontman to lead the line.

Cassano's focaccia-free diet has seen him get back into shape and return to form in time to appear in the third World Cup of his career.

Prandelli had to deal with this very dilemma when managing the side at Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Balotelli started the opening two games of the tournament alongside Cassano, but was then dropped for the third game against the Republic of Ireland and replaced by Antonio di Natale.

The former Manchester City man came on and scored in that game, and during his celebrations teammate Leonardo Bonucci had to cover the Balotelli's mouth to prevent him from berating Prandelli for not selecting him.

Italy will be looking to avoid similar scenes in this tournament, and Balotelli remains the most likely option to start against England. When on form, he is perhaps the Azzuri's most talented player, as he demonstrated in his stunning performance against Germany in Euro 2012.

The AC Milan man is currently priced at 33/1 to finish as the World Cup's top goalscorer, and Italy's chances may hinge on his performance. It's clear that if he does not show Prandelli that he can find his form, the manager is not afraid to leave him out.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch