Italy coach Roberto Mancini warned not to underestimate Malta as Italy take off Michele Marcolini’s side on Sunday, kick-off at 20:45.
Italy are coming from a 1-2 loss to England in Naples and will therefore be all out to claim the three points. However he is expecting a difficult test from Malta.
“Such games are always difficult as the longer it takes to score score, the more difficult it becomes and there is obviously more pressure.”
“It’s always a pleasure to be here. We know Malta quite well. They had several Italian coaches and have good idea of the way they play.”
Mancini, himself, had played for Italy against Malta as part of the Under-21 side in a win over the Malta senior side in 1984 and then with the senior side in a 6-1 win over Malta in Palermo in 1993
“Since the days where I played here with Italy, Malta changed a lot, especially tactically. Under Devis Mangia, they played good football and improved a lot. Such games became more difficult. Such teams defend well and are good in counter attacks. In Macedonia, the score was still 0-0 on the hour.”
Following Thursday’s game against England, Mancini admitted that he will make a number of changes to the team.
“I will make a number of changes, mainly depending on how tired the players are. I need to see today’s session and also tomorrow morning before taking a final decision.”
Leonardo Bonucci and Nicolo Barella failed to make the trip to Malta due to injuries but the latter’s replacement should be just one of a number of changes in the team with
Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal, Matteo Darmian, Alessio Romagnoli, Francesco Acerbi and Emerson Palmieri at the back, Sandro Tonali, Marco Verratti and Bryan Cristante in midfield with a forward line featuring Matteo Politano, Mateo Retegui and Wilfried Gnonto.
Asked whether the defeat to England and the fact that the next matches for Italy will be in September, due to the fact that Italy will be playing in the UEFA Nations League finals in June, Mancini said “You always go on the pitch to win games but losing to England is possible.”
“I am not worried although we know that September poses a bit of problems since the league would have just started. A defeat does not change anything.”
Meanwhile Roma midfielder Bryan Cristante also said the game against Malta will be no easy game.
“Malta is an organised team. Their recent results show this. Like all international games, this will be another difficult game and we need to be fully concentrated throughout the game, give our hundred percent and play our game. “
“All international games are difficult. We cannot afford any loss of concentration. Considering their results, all teams had to struggle and we need to show we are the better side on the pitch.”
“While playing for the national team, there is always pressure. You always pay for any false step and we know that we have to go on the pitch to win, no matter what. All games are like that and we have to show that we deserve to win.”
“It’s not only the focus, but also the attitude, the pressure among the various aspects. Giving the hundred percent is a must in all games. It is clear that after losing the first game, we cannot afford another false step. We have to go on the pitch, giving our hundred percent in order to take home the three points.”
With regards to the England game, Cristante admitted Italy could have approached the game better.
“We could have interpreted the game better, especially during the first half as during the second half, things changed. There is no big gap between the two teams. If we interpreted the game in the right way, right from the start, the result could have gone another way.”
Over the past twelve months, following the disappointing loss to North Macedonia in the play-off which cost Italy a place in the World Cup, Italy defeated Turkiye 3-2 in a friendly match but lost 0-3 to Argentina in the Finalissima. However in the UEFA Nations League, Italy won the group which included England, Germany and Hungary thanks to wins over Hungary, and England at home and away from home against Hungary, a home draw with Germany and an away draw with England, losing only to Germany away from home. In November, Italy played two friendly matches, defeating Albania 3-1 and losing to Austria 0-2.