Balotelli is going through a bad patch – Bonucci

The Juventus centre-back has implored his compatriot to change his ways and put in more effort if he wants to be back in the Italy squad

Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci has warned that Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli must raise his game if he wants to play under Antonio Conte.

Balotelli is yet to feature under Conte, with his last appearance for the national team coming in their World Cup exit to Uruguay in June 2014, although he did make November’s squad before pulling out due to injury.

The striker’s form for Liverpool has done little to suggest he will be back any time soon, but the Juventus centre-back can see the benefit of a fully-fit and a hungry Balotelli in the squad.

“Mario is not in a good period of his career,” Bonucci told reporters. “However, he was an asset in Euro 2012.

“He is welcome in this team, but he has to be part of our group. This team is devoted to hard work.”

Contrastingly, Bonucci was full of praise for Conte – whom he was coached by at Juve – for instilling a rock-solid defensive philosophy to Italy’s play since replacing Cesare Prandelli after their World Cup 2014 group-stage exit.

“Our defensive line is so strong thanks to our coaches,” he added.

“Conte has introduced us to playing with a new defensive style. When we are organised on the pitch, it is easier to play in defence. In addition, we know each other very well. We have played a lot together.”

Italy are in action on Saturday when they travel to Bulgaria for their fifth Euro 2016 qualifier. Conte’s men are currently second behind Croatia on goal difference in Group H, with two teams automatically reaching the finals in France.

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