Italy loses 2 more midfielders ahead of Swiss qualifier

National Sports

FLORENCE, Italy (AP)Italy coach Roberto Mancini has lost another two midfielders ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Switzerland on Friday.

Mancini, who was already without regular starter Marco Verratti through injury, said on Monday that Nicolo Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini would return to their club Roma.

Pellegrini has a knee injury while Zaniolo has a problem with his left calf. Both missed Italy’s victorious European Championship campaign through injury.

”We will replace both of them, we are deciding now on who we should call on,” Mancini told a news conference.

Inter Milan midfielder Nicolo Barella should recover in time to play for Italy despite being substituted in Sunday’s derby against AC Milan after picking up a knock. Juventus defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are also fit after missing the Serie A match against Fiorentina on Saturday.

Italy and Switzerland have 14 points atop Group C, with only the first-place finisher getting a direct spot into next year’s tournament in Qatar. The second-place team goes into a playoff.

Bulgaria is third with eight points, Northern Ireland has five and Lithuania three.

Italy hosts Switzerland in Rome and also plays Northern Ireland in Belfast on Nov. 15.

Italy beat Switzerland 3-0 in the group phase of Euro 2020. The teams then drew 0-0 in Basel in September in the World Cup qualifiers.

”It’s an important match so we mustn’t feel the pressure as we prepare,” Mancini said. ”We have to be as calm as possible. Normally matches against Switzerland are always difficult and Friday’s match will be too.”

Italy saw its world record 37-match unbeaten run ended by a 2-1 loss to Spain in a Nations League semifinal last month.

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