Conte explains reasons for picking Pelle and not Balotelli

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Southampton's Graziano Pelle has received a call-up to the Italy squad whilst Antonio Conte has left Liverpool's Mario Balotelli out for a second time.

Italy national boss Antonio Conte has explained why he has picked Graziano Pelle of Southampton and not Liverpool's Mario Balotelli for the qualifiers for Euro 2016 this week. 

The Azzurri face Azerbaijan and Malta this week whilst Dani Osvaldo - currently on loan at Inter Milan from Southampton - has also been selected.

Pelle has been in sparkling form for Southampton as the 29-year-old has scored four goals for the Saints which has helped them start the season strongly under Ronald Koeman - allowing them to currently sit third in the Premier League.

Balotelli, however, has had a slow start to life at Liverpool, scoring just the one goal since his arrival from AC Milan in August.

Conte told a press conference: “Mario has started a new path. It’s not an easy one and I believe he must be given the necessary time to adapt at Liverpool.

“We are following him just as we monitor all Italians that play abroad.

“I make selections not exclusions, which is something completely different.”

Pelle has been in great form for Southampton as they have adopted to a summer where there has been a lot of change at the club, and having impressed Koeman enough to sign him from Feyenoord, Conte is keen to have a closer look at the forward to see if he can do a job for his country.

He added: “Graziano represents what I’ve always said. Meritocracy leads to a place in the national team for a player that in two years has scored 50 goals.

“Today he is becoming a star in the Premier League league after an adventure in Holland.

“I am curious to see him from close range in order to understand if he can help us.

“He deserved this call up from all points of view.”

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