Italy loses two more midfielders ahead of Swiss qualifier

AP , Tuesday 9 Nov 2021

Italy lost another two midfielders ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Switzerland on Friday in Rome.

Nicolo Zaniolo
Roma s Italian midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo (L) and AC Milan s Belgian midfielder Alexis Saelemaekers go for the ball during the Italian Serie A football match between AS Roma and AC Milan on October 31, 2021 at the Olympic stadium in Rome. (AFP)

Coach Roberto Mancini, already without regular starter Marco Verratti through injury, said on Monday that Nicolo Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini would return to their club Roma.

Pellegrini has a knee injury while Zaniolo has a left calf issue. Both also missed Italy's victorious European Championship campaign through injury.

Mancini has called up Matteo Pessina and Danilo Cataldi to replace them. Pessina won Euro 2020 but has only just returned from injury, coming on as a stoppage-time substitute in Atalanta's 2-1 win at Cagliari at the weekend.

The 27-year-old Cataldi has never played for Italy and the Lazio midfielder received his only previous call-up to the squad five years ago.

Inter Milan midfielder Nicolo Barella should recover in time to play for Italy despite being substituted in Sunday's derby against AC Milan after picking up a knock.

Juventus defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are also fit after missing the Serie A match against Fiorentina on Saturday.

Italy and Switzerland have 14 points atop Group C, with only the first-place finisher getting a direct spot into next year's finals in Qatar. The second-placed team goes into a playoff.

``It's an important match so we mustn't feel the pressure as we prepare,'' Mancini said. ``We have to be as calm as possible. Normally matches against Switzerland are always difficult and Friday's match will be too.''

Italy's world record 37-match unbeaten run was ended last month by Spain 2-1 in a Nations League semifinal.

After Switzerland, Italy plays Northern Ireland in Belfast next Monday.

Italy beat Switzerland 3-0 in the group phase of Euro 2020. The teams drew 0-0 in Basel in September in the World Cup qualifiers.

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