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KRAKOW, Poland (Reuters) - Desperate times call for desperate measures and such is Italy's malaise that coach Cesare Prandelli is seriously considering playing midfielder Daniele De Rossi in a new three-man defence in their Euro 2012 opener against Spain.
Changing formation and switching a key player to an unusual position would be radical for any team heading into their first match of a major tournament but pondering the idea before facing the world and European champions could be considered bold - or suicidal.
A possibly Euro-ending injury to defender Andrea Barzagli and a 3-0 humbling in their last friendly against Russia last week have prompted Prandelli to mull ditching 4-4-2 for Sunday's Group C game. He has already tested the new system in training.
"We know that we have found some difficulties so it would be crazy not to try another solution. Many players have adapted to this system this season, even Daniele at Roma," Prandelli told a news conference hours after Italy landed at their Polish base.
Defender Angelo Ogbonna, who played the Italian second tier Serie B last term with Torino, is among those in the frame for the Gdansk game and Prandelli has no qualms about starting him but is not yet certain to go with three at the back.
"From the moment they are in the 23, they are ready. Unfortunately we've seen what can happen with Barzagli. Ogbonna must be ready," he said.
Prandelli also revealed that if Barzagli is ruled out of the tournament before Friday's deadline then Davide Astori would be called up because original standby Andrea Ranocchia is injured.
Mario Balotelli, Giorgio Chiellini and Christian Maggio, who had a shocker against Russia, all have minor niggles but should be fit.
The Azzurri's injury problems and lack of confidence follow a tortuous few weeks for the Italian game with fresh match-fixing allegations hitting the domestic league and costing left back Domenico Criscito his place in the squad. He denies wrongdoing.
Given the chaotic build-up, Prandelli is still talking up his team's chances in his first tournament as coach after an almost faultless qualification campaign.
"They want to have a Euros where they are challengers. This is the spirit of the group. I have found a group that has a great amount of responsibility," he said.
"The positive aspect is that we arrive (for the first game)with great concentration and focus. The negative aspect is that it is Spain," added the former Fiorentina boss, who will take his squad to visit the nearby Nazi death camp at Auschwitz on Wednesday.
Editing by Mitch Phillips