Malta head coach Michele Marcolini admitted that the national team had a mountain to climb when they take on Italy in a Euro 2024 qualifier at the National Stadium on Sunday (kick-off: 8.45pm).
Facing the European champions is already an arduous task for the Maltese players in itself but the fact that Roberto Mancini’s team heads to our islands on the back of a damaging 2-1 defeat to England at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, is likely to make things far more difficult for the home side.
Malta, on their part, put on a battling display against Northern Macedonia but still went down 2-1 in Skopje and coach Marcolini said that he is bracing himself for a tough night against his fellow compatriots.
“Italy are always one of the best teams in the world, irrespective of the results and form they are passing through,”
“It’s true that they are coming from a disappointing defeat against England but for us it changes very little. Normally, Italian teams tend to take matches against inferior opposition with a more relaxed approach. But I’m sure that following the events in Naples in midweek it will surely not be the case.
“I’m expecting Italy to adopt a far more attacking approach than the one shown against England and will be desperate to make a statement after that disappointing result. That means that my players will have a Mount Everest to climb on Sunday night.”
Marcolini reiterated that he was very pleased with the performance of his players against Northern Macedonia, particularly after conceding two-quick fire goals and falling 2-0 behind, and hopes that the players show the same kind of fight against Italy.
“Tactically I don’t think that I will change much from what we’ve seen in North Macedonia,” the former Chievo midfielder said.
“I have only been here for a few months but I’m blessed that during international windows the domestic championship stops a week before so I have a few days to work with my players. The plan is surely not to park the bus against Italy and we will try to play our game but everything will depend on how much Italy will let us do that.
“One has to keep in mind that we are facing a superior opponent and we will need to try and close all the space in our defence but still we will try not to renounce on playing constructive football.
“Against North Macedonia I was pleased with the character shown by my players, particularly after conceding two quick goals. Normally, when a small team plays against a better side they tend to collapse after a similar double blow.
“But the players kept fighting and I was proud of the response of the team and the fact that the Macedonian players elected to throw away the ball in the final minutes is testament of the spirit shown by the players.”
The Malta coach said that he has no injury problems to contend with and he is hoping that all the players will manage to recover all their energies in time for today’s match, even though he admits that all the players are desperate to be
“I am happy to report that we have no injury problems and the players are doing their best to recover all their energies for the match,” Marcolini said.
“To be honest I will take all the time I have to decide if I will make some changes. Probably there will be some new faces but I am not planning to make a lot of changes.
“However, when you play against such a great side, the players tend to forget their fatigue and everyone wants to get involved so I still have to decide who will start.”
Roberto Mancini is likely to again bank on Argentine-born striker Mateo Retegui who marked his debut with the Azzurri with a goal against England in midweek.
Asked to give his opinion on the Atletico Tigre striker, Marcolini said: “There is no doubt that in the penalty area Retegui can leave his mark as he showed against England.
“In Italy we are always saying that we lack forwards who score goals but in Retegui they certainly have a prolific forward.
“His scoring numbers are very impressive and if he manages to continue his prolific form with an Italian national team that is always under great pressure, I am sure that he will give a huge boost to Italy’s cause.”
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