Balotelli could miss out on Italy call-up as Conte eyes overdue debut for Southampton star

Mario Balotelli Italy

Mario Balotelli's quiet start to life for Liverpool could mean that Southampton Graziano Pelle beats him to an Italy call-up.

Italy have had a real topsy-turvy time in the last few years. Winners of the 2006 World Cup, Italy were then beaten in the last eight of the European Championships in 2008 before crashing out of the 2010 World Cup in the group stage. They somewhat bounced back by reaching the final of Euro 2012, but were back down again with yet another group stage exit at the 2014 World Cup.

That inconsistency means that the Azzurri have turned to former Juventus boss Antonio Conte, who won the Serie A title three seasons in a row with the Turin giants. His departure from Juve this summer was a huge shock, but it seemed inevitable that he would be replacing Cesare Prandelli as Italy boss, who quit his post after the World Cup in favour of a move to Turkish giants Galatasaray.

So far, Conte's reign has started well. 2-0 wins over Netherlands and Norway have handed Italy a positive start to the Conte era, with the strike pairing of Ciro Immobile and Simone Zaza impressing in attack. Despite their strong partnership so far, Conte could add even more firepower to his squad ahead of games against Azerbaijan and Malta in the form of a Premier League striker.

Yet, it probably won't be Mario Balotelli. The new Liverpool signing has scored just once for the Reds since joining from AC Milan in a £16m deal in August, and that came against Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets Razgrad. With no Premier League goals to his name, Balotelli looks set to miss out on a recall again - so who will be taking his place?

According to reports in Italy, it's Southampton's Graziano Pelle who is in line for a call-up. The 29-year-old has yet to earn a call-up for the national team despite hitting 55 goals in 66 games for Feyenoord, but his strong start to life at Southampton means that Conte could finally hand him a call-up.

Previously something of a joke in Italian football with just 22 goals in 109 games over spells with Lecce, Catania, Crotone, Cesena, Parma and Sampdoria, Pelle is proving his doubters wrong having scored four goals in his first six Premier League games under his former Feyenoord boss Ronald Koeman at St. Mary's Stadium.

With Pelle reportedly set to beat Balotelli to call-up, here are some stats from the opening of the Premier League season to illustrate how the Southampton star is outperforming his more illustrious compatriot.

  TeamPosTotal Scoring AttOntarget Scoring AttGoalsAppsMins
Graziano Pellè Southampton FW 22 9 4 6 540
Mario Balotelli Liverpool FW 20 5 0 4 310

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