Mancini: ‘Sacchi harsh on Balo’

Roberto Mancini said Arrigo Sacchi was “too harsh” on Mario Balotelli, but hinted Federico Bernardeschi “probably won’t” start in Portugal.

The Nations League continues after a 1-1 draw with Poland, as the Azzurri visit Portugal on Monday at 19.45 UK time (18.45 GMT).

Mancini spoke to Rai Sport tonight and was asked about the comments Sacchi made about Balotelli and the need for “intelligence” in players.

“I think Sacchi is a great Coach and understands football well, but he was a little too harsh,” said the CT.

“A player knows when he has played well or badly. I think Mario knows full well what his performance against Poland was like. Criticism is part of the game.

“We are only at the beginning of this journey and will change several players from the Poland game, also to look after the lads.

“What we do need is a different attitude, bringing more players closer to the opposition penalty area. We are ready and know it can be a very important match. I won’t say it’s decisive, as there are another two to go, but we are facing the reigning European Champions.”

There were multiple reports of a new BBC attack with Bernardeschi, Andrea Belotti and Federico Chiesa, but Mancini only confirmed that the Fiorentina winger will start.

“Chiesa is a young player with a lot of quality, but we can’t put all the responsibility on his shoulders. Bernardeschi probably won’t play tomorrow.”

This shakes up the predictions for the starting XI, which could see Milan’s Giacomo Bonaventura pushed into a more advanced role in the attack.

That would move Chiesa over to the right flank, as he is two-footed.

Marco Benassi, Bryan Cristante, Nicolò Barella and Roberto Gagliardini are all pushing for a midfield spot next to Jorginho.

Domenico Criscito seems certain to play at left-back, missing the Poland game due to injury, with Alessio Romagnoli and Mattia Caldara eager to get in to defence.

Italy (probable): Donnarumma; Zappacosta, Bonucci, Romagnoli, Criscito; Benassi, Jorginho, Barella; Chiesa, Immobile, Bonaventura

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