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The Spaniard worked with the midfielder during his brief stint at Inter, and has urged the Three Lions to be wary of the 29-year-old

Rafa Benitez has insisted that England should keep an eye on Thiago Motta when they face Italy on Sunday.

The midfielder has started every match for the Azzurri to date in the tournament, but is a doubt for the quarter-final clash due to a hamstring problem.
Italy ready for crunch clash


Writing in his column for The Independent, Benitez claims Motta is underrated, as he bears as much importance to his team as Andrea Pirlo with his ability to keep the ball and use it wisely.

"It would be some result for England to beat their opponents and while everyone has been talking about Andrea Pirlo, you should look out for Thiago Motta," said the trainer. "Believe me, Motta can play.

"He played for me, when I was managing Inter, and against me, in Barcelona's team versus our Liverpool side in the game we won 2-1 in the Camp Nou on the way to the 2007 Champions League final.

"I'll never forget how Motta was substituted before an hour of that game had passed in Catalonia, because things were not so difficult for my own team in midfield after he had left the field.

"Motta is left-footed, good in the air, not fast, but he passes the ball so very well. His left foot is really very, very good.

"I knew him from Barcelona when he was young, breaking into the team at the time when I was managing Valencia, and though he was born in Brazil he fitted in very well with the other players.

"When I first arrived at Inter, Motta was injured, but when he came back he did really well for us. He was a quality player in our midfield - our Pirlo, if you like."

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Benitez also spoke about another ex-player of his, Mario Balotelli, and is of the opinion that the striker has the potential to decide the crunch clash against the Three Lions, regardless of his temperament.

"He is a very special talent who - how can I put it? - needs a very special understanding from a manager. I think he will be fine tomorrow [Sunday]," he said.

"Everyone in the Italy set-up will be talking about the risks that come with him and everybody will be looking out for him, to make sure he does not do something crazy on the pitch.

"Italy will be managing the situation, whether he starts the game or comes on from the bench."

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