Carlo Ancelotti feels Italy are not among the favourites to win Euro 2016 but has backed Antonio Conte's team to be competitive, despite the absence of injured midfielders Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio.
Italy reached the final of Euro 2012, but were beaten 4-0 as an imperious Spain retained their continental crown.
Conte's team will be hard pressed to get that far again in France, particularly after losing Paris Saint-Germain's Verratti and Marchisio of Juventus to groin and knee injuries respectively.
And while Ancelotti, speaking at the launch of his biography 'Quiet Leadership: Winning hearts, minds and matches', anointed world champions Germany, holders Spain and hosts France as favourites, the incoming Bayern Munich coach has faith in the Azzurri's ability to compete.
"I really hope Italy will play a great Euro Cup," he told Omnisport.
"They don't start as favourite, as Germany, Spain or France are, but, as always in international competition, they can play an important part."
The loss of Marchisio and Verratti is compounded by Andrea Pirlo's struggle for form with New York City FC in Major League Soccer, Conte overlooking the 37-year-old former national team lynchpin, as well as Toronto forward Sebastian Giovinco.
"Unfortunately those two are very heavy absences," Ancelotti said of Marchisio and Verratti.
"In my opinion Italy have less quality this year compared to other teams, but they can rely on their personality and their ability."
Conte will leave his post to take over at Chelsea after the European Championship, with Giampiero Ventura and Vincenzo Montella among the candidates to succeed him in Italy's top job.
"I respect every manager because I know how difficult coaching is," Ancelotti said when asked which of the options he prefers.
"Ventura did a great job at Torino, he has [lots of] experience and I think he can be a good candidate.
"At the same time also Montella could be a good option to consider.
"He was excellent at Fiorentina, and he was also good even if he went through some difficulties in the last season at Sampdoria."
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