Roberto Mancini will use the final two matches of Italy’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign to run the rule over a trio of promising youngsters.
With the Azzurri already through to next summer’s finals with an unblemished record which has seen them win all eight Group J matches to date, the pressure is off Mancini and his squad ahead of the games against Bosnia & Herzegovina in Zenica on Friday, and Armenia in Palermo on Monday.
It has allowed Mancini to bring in Brescia defender Andrea Cistana, Fiorentina midfielder Gaetano Castrovilli and Bologna forward Riccardo Orsolini.
Determined to finish the campaign on a high, speaking in a news conference, Mancini said: “We want to win both.
“The game against Bosnia will be a great test, we’ll be playing in a small and boisterous stadium and they’ll give 200 per cent, as they did in the first match.
“And then there’s the game in Palermo. We won’t shake up the team, we won’t have any real opportunities to see each other from now until March.
“This is why we’ve called up the lads who we wanted to see more of (Cistana, Castrovilli and Orsolini). Even though we’ve already qualified for the European Championship, we need to improve certain playing situations.”
Assessing the merits of the trio of 22-year-olds, Mancini added: “We’ve been following their progress a lot over the past few months.
“Orsolini has quality; Cistana has all the important ingredients and is very young, with this also applying to Castrovilli.
“They’re doing well, and we’re looking beyond the European Championship.
“We need to understand what they can give us, not just now but in the future too. Perhaps we’ll call up others next time.”
During his 18 months in charge, Mancini has shown so far he has not been afraid to experiment with his squad as he has handed debuts to 20 players.
Castrovilli recognises the chance he has been given. He said: “It’s every child’s dream, but it isn’t the finishing line, it’s where I have to go from. I need to do this with great enthusiasm, believing in my abilities.
“As regards the European Championship, I want to give the head coach a selection headache through my club performances.”
Although Mancini currently has a squad of 27 at his disposal for the two games, he is without a number of key players through injury, including Marco Verratti, Domenico Berardi, Leonardo Spinazzola and Gianluca Mancini.
Mancini has confirmed his attacking spearhead will feature Lazio’s Ciro Immobile in one game, and Torino’s Andrea Belotti in the other due to past difficulties in them playing together.
“They’ll play one match each,” said Mancini. “They’re two similar players who play in the same areas, but everything is possible if you try.”
Bosnia’s hopes of automatic qualification are slim, with a place in the play-offs now their best hope, recognised by coach Robert Prosinecki who is already planning for those games.
“The most important thing is that we play well in these last two matches ahead of the play-offs,” said Prosinecki in a news conference.
“We don’t need extra motivation, especially against a team like Italy. That will be a test and we will give our all.”
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