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Watch: Italy coach Mancini not underestimating threat posed by Malta

Italy coach Roberto Mancini has warned his players not to underestimate the threat posed by Malta if they are to put their qualification campaign back on track on Sunday.

The Italians face Malta at the Ta’ Qali stadium with their eyes firmly set on winning all three points as they look to bounce back from Thursday’s disappointing 2-1 defeat against England at the Diego Maradona Stadium in Naples.

On paper, the European champions look to be firm favourites to take all three points but Mancini knows all too well that Italy have always struggled to garner wins in Malta and expects today’s match to be no different.

“If you look at our results here in Malta it’s clear that the Italy national team always found life difficult here,” said Mancini, who was part of Arrigo Sacchi’s team that won 2-1 at the National Stadium in the 1994 World Cup qualifiers.

Video: Jonathan Borg

“When Devis Mangia was appointed as Malta coach, the team started to play in a different way, building their attacks from the back, and their results in recent years have shown that they are capable of making life difficult for us.

“Malta is a team that is not only tactically organised but they are very good when it comes to defending and can be dangerous with their transitional play.

“In these matches, it’s important that you find an early goal as the more time passes, the pressure will start to grow and it becomes more difficult for us.

“If you look at Malta’s match against North Macedonia, until the 60th minute the scoreline was still 0-0 so that shows you that they are dangerous opponents and we cannot underestimate their threat.”

For Sunday’s match, Mancini will surely be without Juventus pair Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Chiesa as well as Inter midfielder Nicolo Barella who are all nursing injuries.

Italy players during training at the National Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Jonathan Borg

The Italy coach confirmed that he is set to ring the changes for Sunday’s match.

“We are going to change a lot of players,” Mancini said.

“I need to see the level of fitness of my players but it’s inevitable that we have to see the level of fatigue in our squad. But whoever plays, it’s clear that we need to win the match.”

Mateo Retegui stole the headlines in Italy after his inclusion in Mancini’s squad for this double-header but the Tigre forward repaid the coach’s faith with a goal against England and the Italian coach said that he needs time to adjust to his new surroundings.

“Retegui is a young boy that we have been following for several years now and I think that he is proving that he has a lot of qualities,” Mancini said.

“Obviously, the match against England was only his first match and he needs time to adjust. However, he works really hard and I have no doubt that he can give a huge contribution to our team.

On his part, midfielder Roberto Cristante admitted that Italy have no margin for error against Malta.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini speaks to his players during training. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

“We are aware that it is not going to be a walk in the park as Malta are a very organised side and undoubtedly, we will have to give our best we are to win the match,” the Roma midfielder said.

“If you look at their results, whoever comes to play here finds it very difficult and we don’t have any margin for error as we would be risking jeopardising our path towards qualification.”

Asked whether they were feeling some kind of pressure despite being at an early stage of their qualifying campaign, Cristante said: “There is always pressure when you play for Italy.

“In a qualifying campaign, every negative result can prove costly.”

Marco Verratti (left) and Sandro Tonali (centre) run through a training session at the National Stadium. Photo: Domenic Aquilina

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