Mancini: ‘Balotelli doubt with France’

Roberto Mancini confirms Mario Balotelli could be Italy captain against France tomorrow, but he is in doubt with a muscular issue. “I’m curious to see how we perform.”

It kicks off in Nice on Friday at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT).

The new Coach made his debut in Monday’s 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia in St Gallen, Switzerland, with Mario Balotelli and Andrea Belotti on target.

“I can confirm Salvatore Sirigu will start in goal, but we have to evaluate two or three players to see if they are fit,” noted Mancio in his Press conference.

“It’s probable Lorenzo Insigne and Lorenzo Pellegrini will play, while Mattia De Sciglio is not as tired as Domenico Criscito. The system could vary depending on the players at our disposal. We have many young players who need to gain experience quickly and this can be a useful match for that, even if there’s the risk we won’t get a good result.”

Balotelli had a muscular problem in the Saudi Arabia game and remains in doubt to play in what is his home stadium, scoring for Nice at the Allianz Riviera Stadium for two years.

There are calls for SuperMario to wear the captain’s armband if he does play, as there was a racist banner during his Azzurri comeback.

“In the Nazionale, the armband always goes to the player with the most caps. If Balotelli were in the starting XI and had more caps than the others, then he would be captain.

“The banner we saw in St Gallen was an ugly incident that should not have happened. In any case, Balotelli is in doubt to play and we’ll only decide tomorrow morning.

“If Mario does leave Nice, then it’s important he finds a club where he can play regularly, score goals and continue to improve.”

Leonardo Bonucci is also in doubt, as he left training today due to a personal matter and will meet the team in France.

“France are strong, but I am confident and curious to see how we perform against one the favourites to go all the way in the World Cup.

“They have extraordinary attacking talent, with pace and technique. Didier Deschamps has done a great job over the last six years.

“In Italy, we experienced the drama of missing out on Russia 2018, but only those who fall down can get back on their feet, even through a few painful setbacks.

“I am honoured to be the CT of Italy. It’s a wonderful role, especially as if you like a player, you don’t have to stress out your director of sport to get him. You just pick up the phone and call him up.”

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