Saudi Arabia set to face Mario Balotelli after striker earns Italy recall

Mario Balotelli could face the Green Falcons on May 28. (AFP)
Updated 20 May 2018

Saudi Arabia set to face Mario Balotelli after striker earns Italy recall

  • Saudi Arabia play Italy on May 28
  • Balotelli set to play for the Azzurri for the first time in four years

TURIN: New Italy coach Roberto Mancini on Saturday recalled Nice striker Mario Balotelli to the Azzurri fold for three upcoming friendlies as he begins the job of reviving Italian fortunes.
Mancini was appointed last Monday, six months after Gian Piero Ventura was sacked following the four-time world champions’ failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
The 53-year-old, who left Zenit Saint Petersburg to take the job, unveiled his first 30-man squad for matches against Saudi Arabia, France and the Netherlands.
Mancini takes charge of his first game against the Green Falcons in St. Gallen, Switzerland on May 28.
As expected, the 27-year-old Balotelli was included for the first time in nearly four years.
Balotelli has scored 13 goals in 33 appearances for the Azzurri but has not played international football since Italy’s humiliating group-stage exit from the 2014 World Cup.
Balotelli was last called up by coach Antonio Conte in November 2014 but did not play because of injury.
He has now been given another chance by Mancini, who coached him at both Inter Milan and Manchester City.
Balotelli has resurrected his career since joining Nice in 2016 after less successful spells with AC Milan and Liverpool, scoring 26 goals in all competitions this season, without any of the bad-boy behavior that previously dogged his career.
Italy are not spoilt for choice with forward so Balotelli’s success with Nice could not be overlooked by Mancini.
As a youngster, Balotelli was part of the Inter side coached by Jose Mourinho that won the Champions League in 2010.
He also won three Serie A titles with Inter before switching to Manchester City and helping them claim the Premier League crown in 2012.
Meanwhile, Mancini’s squad was without goalkeeping great Gianluigi Buffon who this week confirmed he would not play again for the national side.
The presence of Buffon — who holds the record for Italy caps with 176 — proved controversial during friendlies in March with his critics wanting him to move over for a younger generation.
In his absence, Mancini has recalled Salvatore Sirigu, who has had a successful season since joining Torino, alongside AC Milan teenager Gianluigi Donnarumma and Genoa’s Mattia Perin.
Among the veterans there was no call-up for Roma captain Daniele De Rossi, with Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini absent through injury.
The captain’s armband is expected to go to AC Milan center-back Leonardo Bonucci.
Five players have been given a first call-up — Chelsea left-back Emerson Palmieri, Torino midfielder Daniele Baselli, Crotone midfielder Rolando Mandragora, Sassuolo striker Domenico Berardi and Atalanta defender Mattia Caldara.
Along with defenders Alessio Romagnoli and Daniele Rugani, midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini and strikers Federico Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi are among the promising youngsters who are expected to put Italy back on the road to victory.
The squad will meet for the first time at the Italian national team’s training camp at Coverciano near Florence on May 23.

Italy squad
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino);
Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan), Mattia Caldara (Atalanta), Domenico Criscito (Zenit St. Petersburg/RUS), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter Milan), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Emerson Palmieri Dos Santos (Chelsea/ENG), Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea/ENG)
Midfielders: Daniele Baselli (Torino), Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), Bryan Cristante (Atalanta), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Jorginho (Napoli), Rolando Mandragora (Crotone), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma)
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Nice/FRA), Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Matteo Politano (Sassuolo), Simone Verdi (Bologna), Simone Zaza (Valencia/ESP)


Liverpool cleared to win Premier League at Anfield

Atletico Madrid’s Marcos Llorente scores a goal against Liverpool during their match in London. The Reds will play against Everton on June 21. (Reuters/File)
Updated 06 June 2020

Liverpool cleared to win Premier League at Anfield

  • All remaining 92 Premier League games this season will be played behind closed doors, but there are fears that hosting the game in Liverpool could encourage supporters to congregate around stadiums

LONDON: Premier League leaders Liverpool could claim a first title for 30 years at Anfield after the initial batch of fixtures of the restart was announced on Friday.
Jurgen Klopp’s men, with a commanding 25-point lead at the top of the table, were just two wins away from clinching the title before coronavirus forced the suspension of football in March.
Liverpool’s first match back is against Everton on June 21. The Merseyside derby is due to take place at Goodison Park, less than a mile from Anfield, but a venue has not been confirmed by the Premier League. Crystal Palace will then visit Anfield three days later.
Wins in both of those matches would guarantee Liverpool’s first English top-flight title since 1990. But if Manchester City lose at home to Arsenal on June 17, the Reds would be champions if they beat Everton.
Liverpool City Council’s safety advisory group will meet next week to make a decision on whether the game can go ahead at Goodison or should be moved to a neutral venue.
All remaining 92 Premier League games this season will be played behind closed doors, but there are fears that hosting the game in Liverpool could encourage supporters to congregate around stadiums.

SPEEDREAD

Liverpool’s first match back is against Everton on June 21. The Merseyside derby is due to take place at Goodison Park, less than a mile from Anfield, but a venue has not been confirmed by the Premier League. Crystal Palace will then visit Anfield three days later.

The only other match that could be moved to a neutral venue from the first three rounds of fixtures is Liverpool’s visit to City on July 2.
The mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, voiced fears that “there would be many thousands of people who would turn up outside Anfield” on the day Liverpool’s long wait for a league title was ended.
That has been disputed by the club, who said they have engaged with supporters’ groups to make sure social-distancing guidelines are followed.
Aston Villa will host Sheffield United in the first match of “Project Restart,” followed by Arsenal’s trip to City on June 17.
Manchester United’s visit to Tottenham will spearhead the first full round of matches spread over four days from June 19 to 22.
Premier League CEO Richard Masters said: “We know it won’t be the same without our loyal supporters in stadiums but, together with our broadcast partners, we are able to ensure fans can watch or listen to each match live from home.”