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Mancini: "It’s Immobile’s turn, I’ll make 4/5 changes"

The Head Coach ahead of Italy’s UEFA Nations League match against the Netherlands: “We need to learn to live with COVID-19”

Tuesday, October 13, 2020


It’s been a strange day for the National Team on the eve of their match against the Netherlands in Bergamo tomorrow. COVID-19 is now also causing problems within the senior side, whose training session today has been postponed by two hours. One player, Stephan El Shaarawy, had a positive swab. As Prof. Andrea Ferretti explained in today’s press conference, however, the viral load was low and a serological test performed on El Shaarawy then came back negative. In the evening, there was good news: El Shaarawy’s second swab test, which was done today, came back negative, so it appears that he’s a false positive.

Nevertheless, the National Team will put the finishing touches to their preparations in a socially distanced manner. “It hasn’t been that crazy a day,” said Mancini during his pre-match press conference. “We were meant to have our training session at 17:00-18:00, but it’ll take place at 20:00 instead. Obviously, we’ve been distracted slightly, but it hasn’t been particularly problematic.” Italy haven’t played in Bergamo for 14 years, and their return is a sign of solidarity with a city that has been through a difficult period in recent months: “It’s a pleasure for us to be here. We would have wanted to play this match in a different environment, in a full stadium: it would have been perfect with fans.” Just over a month on from their win in Amsterdam, Italy will take to the pitch to play the Netherlands once more. While talking about the Azzurri’s line-up, Mancini confirmed that Ciro Immobile will start, while there will also be four or five changes compared to the Poland match: “Let’s be clear: we have a group of lads who have been fantastic. Everyone deserves to play, but there needs to be respect shown towards the players in the knowledge that they will have to play a match every three days. Therefore, I need to preserve them slightly. With three international fixtures, I’m going to give them one game each, and tomorrow will be Immobile’s turn. Will there be other chances? Chiellini will return, and then there will be four or five changes.”

The Head Coach continued: “When we began two years ago, we wanted to do something great. We’re managing to do so, but we have many young players and can still improve. Games like this will help us to make further steps forward before the European Championship.”

Once tomorrow’s match is over, the Azzurri will have played three games in eight days, a friendly and two Nations League matches: “Have there been too many fixtures in this period in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency? I don’t know if the season could have been planned differently. As regards the National Team, there are now many more matches compared to 20 years ago. We meet up once in a while, perhaps two friendlies could have been removed. But the decision-makers have their reasons for making the decisions they do. Unfortunately, we have to live with COVID, and some players might not be able to play in November, although I hope that this isn’t the case.” In any case, the team are ready to face the Netherlands tomorrow evening: “No one can intimidate us, but we respect all the teams that we face because all matches are tough at international level. We’ll be facing a strong side with young players who are improving game by game, it’ll be a great challenge. When two high-quality sides come up against each other, a hard-fought encounter is always in store. They dominated the ball against Bosnia and had more opportunities, just like we did against Poland. They didn’t manage to score, but Bosnia always defend with a lot of men. The Dutch play entertaining and attacking football, but we’re also doing well. We hope to do more than we did against them last time out and perhaps score more goals.”

Giorgio Chiellini will make his 105th Azzurri appearance tomorrow. When talking about COVID-19, the captain had the following to say: “The escalation in recent weeks doesn’t come as a surprise. The only thing we can do is carry on but take all the necessary precautions in doing so. We can’t just stop. We’re not worried, but clearly we often talk amongst ourselves, aware of what awaits us. The real victory will be to finish the league season, and where the teams end up is of secondary importance.

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