Optimistic Ogbonna eyes Italy recall
But, before you start worrying that one of West Ham United’s most-important players could be on their way, the match in question is an international friendly between Ogbonna’s Italy and Lanzini’s Argentina, which will be played at Manchester City’s home ground on Friday 23 March.
With the centre-half in strong form and the attacking midfielder nearing a return from injury, each could earn recalls to their respective national teams.
I would love to play for Italy again, but for now West Ham is more important than anything else
“Of course, I wish to come back to the national team,” said Ogbonna, who has 13 caps to his name, the last of which came in a FIFA World Cup qualifying win in Israel in September 2016. “I would love to play for Italy again, but for now West Ham is more important than anything else because we need a lot of points to get safe.
“The best thing is to do things step by step. If I do good things for West Ham, then hopefully I will get the chance to do good things with Italy again.”
Now fully fit after undergoing surgery to rectify a longstanding knee problem a year ago, Ogbonna’s form has been the result of a combination of different factors – confidence both in himself and from his manager, consistency in selection and comfort in his favoured position on the left of a three-man defence.
While some centre-backs struggle to adapt to a back-three, Ogbonna is well-versed in the system, having played in exactly the same position on numerous occasions during two title-winning seasons with Italian club Juventus.
There, he lined up alongside the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli to form a defence which conceded just 47 league goals across two seasons and reached the 2015 UEFA Champions League final.
“I played already in this position many times, even when I was in Juventus, so I feel comfortable.”
Ogbonna is unlikely to feel comfortable on Saturday, however, when he and his West Ham teammates will try to stifle Liverpool’s potent attack at Anfield.
The Hammers were beaten 4-1 by the Reds in the reverse fixture at London Stadium back in early November, with Lanzini scoring the hosts’ goal, but the east Londoners are a tougher nut to crack these days.
With a win and a draw from each of their last two Premier League visits, a clean sheet in a win over Watford last time out and just two defeats from their last 12 top-flight matches, the 29-year-old says the Hammers can travel to Merseyside with confidence.
“It’s always a big test, but this is the Premier League. It’s a really important game for us because we’re going to Anfield and, since I was here, we did really good, positive things there.
“It’s going to be a really hard game and I wish all our players are going to be fit and all our players are going to be well.
“It’s really important to read the situation and prepare for the game as well as we can.”