Italy boss Roberto Mancini has called up Atalanta’s Matteo Pessina and Lazio midfielder Danilo Cataldi to his latest squad after losing Roma duo Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolo Zaniolo to injury.
The European champions face Switzerland and Northern Ireland in their final two qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 World Cup and currently sit top of Group C on goal difference, level on 14 points with the Swiss ahead of their crucial encounter in Rome on Friday.
Mancini, who is already without Marco Verratti due to a hip injury, confirmed earlier on Monday at a media conference that Pellegrini (knee) and Zaniolo (calf) will return to their club.
“Zaniolo was a bit unlucky because he suffered two serious injuries. He is young and he has the qualities to get over it,” he said.
“It could have been an important game for him, but he has a problem and we can’t take any risk. I don’t think he needs my advice, he has the quality and he can improve in everything.
“We will surely replace them [Pellegrini and Zaniolo] because we also need to assess [Nicolo] Barella. We didn’t call Pessina because he is not ready.”
Despite this, Mancini ultimately did decide to turn to Pessina, as well as Cataldi, who receives his first senior call-up since 2017 after a solid start to the season at Lazio.
The former Manchester City manager did have better news about his defence, with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci appearing to be fit to play despite missing Juventus’ 1-0 win against Fiorentina at the weekend.
“They feel well, we have a training session today. We’ll see how everyone feels.”
— Italy (@Azzurri_En) November 8, 2021
Can Cataldi step up for the Azzurri?
While Mancini is suffering from something of a midfield crisis, having players with the quality of Pessina and Cataldi to call on is not a bad problem to have.
It may be the first call-up for Cataldi in over four years, but he has achieved it off the back of some eye-catching performances at club level for Maurizio Sarri’s men.
When measured against Pellegrini, whose role he will fill, Cataldi leads the way in pass success percentage (91.2), albeit the 27-year-old has only started four of his 10 league appearances, while the Roma captain has started 11.
Cataldi also has a superior pass completion rate in the opposition half, with 84.7 per cent compared to Pellegrini’s 79.7, so his numbers do not appear to be indicative of him only playing easy passes.
Whether Cataldi gets an opportunity to win only his second cap remains to be seen, but he has clearly caught the eye of Mancini at least.
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