Mark Hughes was sacked as Manchester City manager on this day in 2009, paying the price for a run of two wins in 11 games.

Roberto Mancini was installed as Hughes’ replacement, with Brian Kidd as his number two, in a move which confirmed speculation that a decision had already been taken before an eventful 4-3 win over Sunderland, at which the Italian was present.

A three-goal hammering at Tottenham convinced owner Sheikh Mansour and chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak that Hughes could not steer City into the top four, as had been expected following a summer outlay of £120million.

“A return of two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set,” Khaldoon said in a statement.

“Sheikh Mansour and the board felt there was no evidence that the situation would fundamentally change.

“The targets were agreed as a result of the player acquisition strategy of the club being radically accelerated in the summer as a result of very favourable conditions for any buying club.

“It was also based on the fact that the infrastructure of the club had been overhauled completely at great cost in order to create the best possible environment for the team.”

City also confirmed that Mark Bowen, Eddie Niedzwiecki, Kevin Hitchcock and Glyn Hodges – all part of Hughes’ coaching staff – had left the club.

There was an argument Khaldoon should have waited until after the Christmas fixtures against Stoke and Wolves, and even an FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough and a League Cup semi-final – the first time City had reached the last four of any domestic competition in almost 29 years – against Manchester United.

But, with another transfer window about to open, Khaldoon took the view it was better to act when he did.

In Mancini, he brought in a manager who had guided Inter Milan to three successive Serie A titles from 2006 before being sacked in 2008 after failing to make any impact in Europe.

Manchester City confirmed Carlos Tevez would face disciplinary proceedings, after apparently refusing to come on as a substitute in a Champions League match, on this day in 2011.

Manager Roberto Mancini claimed Tevez refused to come off the bench during the 2-0 defeat at Bayern Munich. An internal investigation was launched and Tevez was informed he would be punished.

“The club has been conducting an investigation into the events of 27 September at the Allianz Arena,” a club statement read.

“The club has now reached a stage in its investigation where it has concluded that there is a case for Carlos Tevez to answer of alleged breaches of contract.

“Accordingly, the club has informed him that he will face disciplinary proceedings and the hearing will be convened shortly.”

Tevez claimed the incident was a misunderstanding as he had only refused to warm up.

Nevertheless, he was suspended for two weeks and hit with a substantial fine.

The Argentina forward did not play for City again until the following March, but stayed with the club until joining Juventus in 2013.

Roberto Mancini agreed a new five-year contract with Manchester City on this day in 2012.

However, just 10 months later the City dream had soured and the title-winning manager wound up being sacked.

The Italian manager took charge at the Etihad Stadium in 2009 and helped accelerate the club’s revolution under owner Sheikh Mansour.

Mancini was rewarded with a long-term new deal after steering City to their first top-flight title in 68 years, when the Manchester side won the 2011-12 Premier League.

Sergio Aguero’s last-ditch winner toppled QPR and saw City edge out rivals and neighbours Manchester United to claim the league crown.

Mancini replaced Mark Hughes in December 2009, leading his side to the 2011 FA Cup before swiping the English championship a year later.

“I am delighted to be able to give all of my efforts to Manchester City for a further five years,” said Mancini on completing his new extended deal.

“The opportunity which exists to build on our recent success is enormous.”

Sadly for Mancini, that enormous opportunity for City did not extend to him for much longer.

City lost the 2013 FA Cup final 1-0 to Wigan, with the Latics suffering Premier League relegation to sit alongside their cup glory.

That proved the final straw for City’s owners, after United had already sewn up the Premier League title with two games to play.

Mancini was unseated by City on May 13, 2013 – just two days after that FA Cup final defeat.

Assistant Brian Kidd took charge for the final two league games, with United eventually ending with an 11-point margin on second-placed City.

Mancini would move on to further club management roles with Galatasaray, Inter Milan and Zenit St Petersburg before claiming Euro 2020 glory as Italy coach.

Christian Vieri believes criticism of Roberto Mancini's decision to call up Argentine-born Mateo Retegui to the Italy team is "dinosaur stuff".

Retegui was born and raised in Argentina, has spent his entire career in South America and cannot speak Italian, but he qualified for the Azzurri through a grandparent.

The striker, who counted Vieri as an idol, made his Italy bow this month, scoring against both England and Malta to prompt links to Inter.

There has still been scepticism around his role in the Italy side, with Mario Balotelli among those to suggest Mancini should be relying on players closer to home.

But that is not an assessment Vieri agrees with, having grown up in Australia before representing Italy at two World Cups.

"They are poor people," Vieri told Corriere della Sera of the critics. "It is an ancient mentality, dinosaur stuff.

"In Australia, I grew up with kids from all over the world."

He added of Retegui: "It is promising, a positive impact. A really nice goal against England, perfect control and immediate, precise shooting, and a pure centre-forward's goal in Malta.

"Mancio was right once again: if he sees a good player, he throws him in without much problem. In any case, Mateo has to play and still improve a lot."

Mancini has repeatedly pointed to the lack of Italian talent in forward positions in Serie A, perhaps best illustrated by runaway league leaders Napoli.

Georgia's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Nigeria's Victor Osimhen have inspired their outstanding campaign and are counted among Vieri's stars of the season – all of whom play for the Partenopei and none of whom are Italian.

"In first place is Kim [Min-jae]," Vieri said. "Kim Kardashian, I say.

"Seriously, I didn't even know who he was. And here I think back to [the work of Napoli sporting director Cristiano] Giuntoli. I was very impressed by the personality of the Korean.

"Then, of course, there's Kvaratskhelia – he seems to me George Best for the way he walks, dribbles, even for his hair.

"I say Osimhen, devastating. Italy completed him from all points of view, and today he is among the three strongest strikers in the world.

"Finally, we mustn't overlook the 'old' [Stanislav] Lobotka, who reminds me of Xavi, someone who made a mistake every 10 to 12 months."

Can Napoli win the Champions League as well as the Scudetto then?

"It wouldn't be a surprise for me, even if they'll have to be very careful about Milan," Vieri said.

Mateo Retegui's instant impact for Italy has left Roberto Mancini considering exploring further options for the Azzurri through the dual-citizenship ruling.

Argentina-born Retegui scored on his international debut for Italy in Thursday's 2-1 defeat to England and found the net again in the 2-0 victory over Malta three days later in Euro 2024 qualifying.

The striker's selection has sparked debate closer to home with Azzurri striker Mario Balotelli previously suggesting Mancini has enough attacking options to call upon from Italy.

But head coach Mancini has been encouraged by Retegui's early development and refused to rule out making similar moves in future.

He said at his post-match press conference: "Retegui is a goalscorer, it's no small thing. It's what we saw when we followed him. He still needs time, but he scores goals and it's an important quality.

"He has the qualities of a centre-forward, but now we have to wait, we have to give him time. He's like a student in a new school: he has to learn everything. But he has unlocked the game, that's no small thing.

"Retegui in Serie A would be a good thing, I think this would give him more strength, he would be able to learn the language and consequently communicate better with his team-mates."

Pressed on whether he would select more non-Italian natives, Mancini added: "Yes, it's a possibility. We have a small percentage of players in Serie A. In Switzerland, 15 out of 20 are natives.

"Belgium is the same. France, Germany, England are among the natives. Up until a certain number of years ago, we had strong players and we didn't need to.

"The others have done things to us, often they've taken away players we've raised and we'll do the same."

Victory over Malta leaves Italy three points behind embryonic Group C leaders England, with the Azzurri not again in action until June's Nations League semi-final against Spain.

"We just have to work and do the right things," Mancini added to Sky Sport Italia. "We always say the same things, we are becoming talkative.

"Work is a big word because there isn't time, we only have time to make them recover and to prepare a little something, there isn't time."

Mateo Retegui was on target once again as Italy triumphed 2-0 at Malta to record their first victory in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Argentina-born Retegui scored on his international debut in Thursday's 2-1 defeat to England and found the net once more with a simple 15th-minute opener three days later.

Matthew Guillaumier's own goal 12 minutes later offered Roberto Mancini's side complete control at Ta' Qali National Stadium, with Malta rarely threatening a response.

Victory leaves Italy three points behind embryonic Group C leaders England, who eased past Ukraine by the same scoreline earlier on Sunday.

Malta almost grabbed an unlikely fifth-minute lead but captain Gianluigi Donnarumma rescued Italy with a fine stop against Alexander Satariano when one-on-one.

That missed chance proved pivotal as an unmarked Retegui headed home from Sandro Tonali's corner soon after, before Wilfried Gnonto limped off injured.

Guillaumier turned into his own net from Emerson's inviting cross as Italy furthered their lead, though Henry Bonello denied substitute Vincenzo Grifo to keep the scoreline respectable at half-time.

A frantic scramble inside the Italy area offered Mancini's visitors a rare second-half scare before Bonello thwarted a fizzing Bryan Cristante attempt.

Gianluca Scamacca's inventive acrobatic effort forced another smart Bonello save as Italy cruised to their first win on the road to Germany 2024.

 

What does it mean? Italy back on track after England disappointment

Italy lost for a first time in 41 European Championship qualifiers after failing to deliver against England in Naples but responded with an assured performance at lowly Malta.

With fellow qualification hopefuls Ukraine brushed aside by England in the second round of matches, Italy may hope for a simple qualification path by finishing second in Group C.

It may not be all straightforward for Mancini's men, though, with Ukraine by no means pushovers and two clashes to follow with North Macedonia, who eliminated Italy in the World Cup play-offs last year.

Rampant Retegui

Mancini has repeatedly fielded questions over his selection decisions to call up Retegui, who qualified for the Azzurri because of his grandfather's Italian passport.

Retegui silenced the critics once again, joining Riccardo Orsolini (November 2020), Enrico Chiesa (June 1996) and Giorgio Chinaglia (September 1972) as the only players to score in their first two Italy appearances.

Sorry Satariano

In stark contrast to the in-form Retegui, Satariano struggled against the experienced Alessio Romagnoli and centre-back partner Giorgio Scalvini.

The Malta striker faltered from a gilt-edged first-half opportunity and managed just seven passes before being replaced in the 64th minute, while even Italy goalkeeper Donnarumma enjoyed more than Satariano's 24 touches.

What's next?

Italy are not in action until their Nations League semi-final against Spain on June 15, while Malta host England in Euro 2024 qualifying the day after.

Roberto Mancini questioned Mario Balotelli's claim that Italy are not short of strikers and shrugged off a "meaningless controversy" over Mateo Retegui's language skills ahead of Sunday's clash with Malta.

Mancini bemoaned the lack of attacking options he has to select from before a 2-1 defeat to England in the Azzurri's first Euro 2024 qualifying match on Thursday.

The Italy head coach defended his decision to look overseas and call up the Argentina-born Retegui, who scored on his debut against the Three Lions in Naples.

Balotelli on Saturday wrote in an Instagram story: "There are strikers in Italy and they are fit, trust me."

He added: "Regret is the feeling of those who regularly don't learn the lesson and get there once it's all finished. Or simply, they never get there.!"

Mancini responded to Balotelli by stating: "What should I say to Mario? I'm glad they [attacking options] are there. I don't know who he is referring to. Maybe it refers to him? I love him too much, let's hope he's really fit."

Despite marking his Italy bow with a goal, further reservations have been expressed over Retegui's inclusion due to the fact he does not have a command of the Italian language.

Mancini said when asked about his new striker's lack of Italian: "It's another reason why you need to have a little patience. He's been in Italy for three days, how can he speak Italian?

"His grandfather knew Italian, it's a meaningless controversy. When he knows Italian it will be easier for him."

Mancini will make changes when the European champions take on Malta in their second Group C game at the Ta' Qali National Stadium and expects intensity from the start after they were dominated by England in the first half.

"We have to be what we were with England in the second half, but more precise in front of goal and less inattentive in some situations," he said. 

"You always have to score points, quick assessments aren't right, you only look at the result. Some players are not in great condition because of the many games, but for the rest they can give a lot.

"There are teams that never lead and then win, there are more ways to win. We have experimented with one and we succeeded well even when we weren't among the favourites, but there's no right medicine. We'll make several changes."

Roberto Mancini knows Italy face an "uphill climb" to qualify for Euro 2024 after they were beaten 2-1 by England but took heart from their second-half display.

Declan Rice opened the scoring and Harry Kane become England's outright record goalscorer with his 54th strike for his country from the penalty spot just before half-time in Thursday's Group C opener at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Argentina-born Mateo Retegui marked his debut with a goal to get the European champions back in the game and there was further hope for Italy when Luke Shaw was sent off in the 80th minute.

England held on to gain a measure of revenge for a defeat in the Euro 2020 final, securing their first away win over Italy since May 1961.

Gareth Southgate's side ended Italy's run of 40 European Championship qualifying matches without defeat, leaving the holders with work to do in order to return to a major tournament in Germany next year after missing out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Azzurri head coach Mancini said: "We knew it was going to be a difficult game, then we conceded two goals from two set-pieces; we should have been more careful. 

"We dominated in the second half and probably deserved a draw. We're disappointed with the result but we still have a long way to go."

He added: "In the second half we managed to press better, higher and I saw a great team again: this gives us hope. England are always dangerous from set-pieces, but we shouldn't have conceded those two goals.

"We still managed to roll up our sleeves and play better. The road is a bit of an uphill climb now, but maybe it will finish more smoothly."

Mancini was encouraged by the impact Retegui made in the second half in Naples after the striker became the first player to open his Italy account while playing for a club based outside of Europe.

"Retegui has yet to get to know his team-mates and our movements as a team," Mancini said of the Tigre forward.

"In the first half, he had difficulties against the English defenders who are very strong physically, but he did better in the second half. He's young and I think he just needs a little time."

Argentina-born Italy striker Mateo Retegui reminds Roberto Mancini of the Albiceleste's Serie A great Gabriel Batistuta.

Retegui has been handed a first Italy call-up for this month's Euro 2024 qualifiers, starting at home to England on Thursday.

The Tigre striker, who was born and raised in Argentina, where he has also spent his entire club career, qualifies for the Azzurri through his grandfather.

Strikers travelling between Argentina and Italy is not a new phenomenon, but Retegui is heading for the Italy camp, rather than a Serie A club.

"Coming like this from Argentina to Italy, not in a club team, is not so simple," coach Mancini said on the eve of the England game.

"It takes some time, but the guy is polite and smart. He is a good striker, young, we have great confidence and we have to give him some time."

Retegui has scored 28 goals in 48 Argentine Primera Division games for Tigre.

While Mancini noted comparisons with former Napoli striker German Denis, he preferred to draw parallels with the great Batistuta.

Batistuta joined Fiorentina from Boca Juniors in 1991 and was a great success both with the Viola and with Roma.

"[Retegui] is a classic striker, I see that many compare him to Denis," Mancini said. "I remember when Batistuta arrived in Italy, he reminds me of him.

"Clearly, he is a young guy and needs time and to grow. But I don't think it will take long to settle in."

Wilfried Gnonto has expressed his continued disbelief at working alongside Italy head coach Roberto Mancini as they prepare to start their Euro 2024 qualifiers against England on Thursday.

Italy missed out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after a loss to North Macedonia in their qualifying play-off in March last year.

It was the second successive World Cup that the Azzurri had missed and came just months after their victorious Euro 2020 campaign that saw them beat England on penalties in the final.

Gnonto made his international debut in May 2022 and looks set to add to his eight caps for the national side when they face England on Thursday before travelling to Malta on Sunday. 

The Leeds United winger was a product of the Inter youth academy when Mancini was in charge of the Italian side and hailed the national team boss as one of his inspirations.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Gnonto said: "I remember when I was young at Inter and he coached the first team. He was an idol and I never expected to be in the national team with him."

The winger became the youngest goalscorer for Italy when he scored against Germany last June and backs Mancini's recent claim that Italy have young talent comparable to England's Jude Bellingham.

He said: "He gave a strong signal, both with me and with other young people. We hope many others will follow."

The 19-year-old also hailed to influence of former assistant coach Gianluca Vialli, who worked with the younger players extensively before passing away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

"He immediately tried to make me feel part of the group and to give me advice. The moments spent together and his words will always remain with me," Gnonto said.

Leeds sit 14th in the Premier League but just two points off the relegation zone, with Gnonto registering four goals in all competitions since his move from Zurich last year. 

"I didn't even hope so much, it all happened very quickly and I didn't have time to realise," he said, reflecting on his transfer to the Premier League. 

"But it was a beautiful emotion. The impact was good on a personal level, the team is experiencing some ups and downs.

"It seems like a dream to me. I come from Baveno and I never expected one day to get to the Premier League or to receive compliments from such players. I live everything with great pride and I always try to commit myself to improve."

"It has now become a 'classico'," said Roberto Mancini ahead of the latest episode of Italy-England.

Thursday's encounter – which kicks off Euro 2024 qualifying – will be the sides' fourth since Mancini took the Italy job in 2018 and their fifth since Gareth Southgate became England manager in 2016.

Prior to this match, Southgate has only faced Germany more often, yet the Azzurri are one of just four opponents his England team have played without winning (also France, Colombia and Brazil).

That sequence of results includes the Euro 2020 final, of course, and so revenge might be on the minds of the Three Lions.

Of the 16 England players who played some part in that Wembley shoot-out defeat, 14 were named in Southgate's squad for this month's qualifiers. Raheem Sterling – one of the other two – was also name-checked by Southgate, missing due to injury.

Rather than rebuild his side after coming so close, Southgate has stuck by his trusted lieutenants. He has handed out 20 or more caps to 22 different players across his England tenure and included 17 of those in his latest group – Sterling, again, is one of the other five.

It figures that Southgate should have faith in the best England side since 1966, even if his predictable squad selections frustrate some supporters.

Mason Mount and Marcus Rashford subsequently dropped out of the squad but were not replaced, with the manager seemingly reluctant to gamble on the introduction of a new face – particularly at this key juncture at the start of a new cycle.

"Now you have to start again," Southgate explained last week. "I know exactly where our most senior players are with that challenge: they are ready.

"The [Jordan] Hendersons, the [Harry] Kanes, they set the tone for that sort of mentality that is going to be needed."

How Italy would love to have the problems that face Southgate, both in having to rally quickly following a World Cup campaign – one Mancini's men watched from home – and in juggling elite talents and having to shut the door to others.

Less than two years have passed since Italy won the European Championship, yet the 17 players they used in the final were, on average, two years older than the 16 of England.

 

If this is the last run for Southgate and some of his most reliable stars – and it surely is – the same was already true for Italy at the Euros.

Only nine of those 17 players were retained by Mancini this month, naming a squad that included three teenagers and four uncapped players, along with the returning Matteo Darmian, whose last international outing pre-dates the Azzurri coach.

Far from confidently regenerating his squad, however, Mancini is casting around for answers. He has capped 88 players in 57 matches; Southgate has capped 88 players in 81 matches.

Where only five of England's 25-man squad have earned 10 caps or fewer under Southgate, there are 15 in the 30-man Italy group who are yet to reach that milestone under Mancini.

Of course, that includes Darmian, but it also includes Mateo Retegui, an Argentinian-born, Argentinian-raised and Argentinian-based forward at Tigre.

While his involvement prompted some controversy, going against Mancini's previous stance on calling up players not born in Italy, the coach explained: "In Italy, there are few. We are worse off than Southgate. If there is a chance to take new players, we take them."

It is a high-pressure situation Retegui is entering, potentially being tasked with leading the line against the toughest opponents in Italy's group.

Mancini has acknowledged his team cannot afford a slow start in a "very important" first game as they look to right the wrongs of their previous qualification campaign, but he has been left little choice but to take risks.

By contrast, getting to major tournaments has not until now been a problem for the risk-averse Southgate.

A 'classico' in Naples may yet inform the England boss whether that can remain the case with the same group of players at a third straight finals.

Roberto Mancini believes Italy's rivalry with England has become a "classic" as they prepare to do battle in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier on Thursday.

The Azzurri won the last European Championship by beating Gareth Southgate's side on penalties in the final at Wembley in 2021.

Italy and the Three Lions then played out a goalless draw in the Nations League last June, before Giacomo Raspadori secured a 1-0 victory for Mancini's men in their last meeting three months later.

England will get another chance to gain a measure of revenge in a Group C clash at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona this week and Mancini is expecting an almighty challenge in Naples.

He said: "For me, it's become a classic. England and Italy seem to meet a lot, a bit like Italy and Germany in the past.

"For a long time now they've become a fantastic team, full of talented players, with strength and technique. It'll be a tough game just like all the others have been. 

"They have more choice than us for many reasons, but in Naples we want to play a good match, play well and start these qualifiers well."

Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar last year and head coach Mancini says they are in a rebuilding process. 

"Unfortunately there was the difficult interlude of the World Cup, but apart from a few games, the team has always done well," Mancini continued.

"We arrived twice in the Nations League finals [they face Spain in a semi-final in June], this means that there is value [in the team]. We have to rebuild something important because to win there must be solid foundations. There have been some good things in the Nations League."

Mancini expects his players to do Gianluca Vialli – who was Italy's head of delegation when they won the rearranged Euro 2020 two years ago – proud after he died at the age of 58 in January.

He added: "I've already talked about it with the boys, it will be important for us to remember him, as if he were here with us. He had his space and it's not easy for us, we have to try to do well for him."

Roberto Mancini defended calling up Argentina-born forward Mateo Retegui as he bemoaned Italy's lack of attacking options.

Mancini has turned to former Argentina under-19 and under-20 international Retegui for the start of the Azzurri's Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.

The Italy head coach did not expect the 23-year-old, on loan at Tigre from Boca Juniors, to accept the invitation to play for the European champions.

Eyebrows were raised when Retegui, whose grandmother was born in Italy, was named in Mancini's squad ahead of a Group C opener against England at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Thursday.

Mancini said on Monday: "We've been following him for some time, he has quality and he's a young boy. We didn't think he'd say yes, we hesitated a bit and instead he immediately said yes. The hope is that it can be important, he's a bright and young boy."

The Azzurri boss has changed his stance over calling up players who were born in a different country.

"Years ago I said that players born in Italy should play for the national team, but this problem didn't exist yet and the world has changed." he said.

"All the European national teams have players naturalised from other countries. We have had players who were taken by the national team of other nations.

"And we are doing the same thing. It is useless to talk, in Italy there are few. We are worse off than [England boss Gareth] Southgate, if there is the possibility of taking new we get players."

Mancini is concerned by the lack of options at his disposal. 

He said: "In Italy nobody plays on the street anymore. We used to play three-four hours on the street and then we went to train, today this doesn't happen anymore.

"It's no coincidence that players are still born in those countries, such as Uruguay, Argentina or Brazil, where they still play a lot on the street." 

Mancini added: "I have no idea why so few forwards come out. we are really very limited in the offensive department.

"We have three teams in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but out of three teams, there are seven or eight Italians at the most. This is the reality."

Mancini is waiting to discover if Federico Chiesa and Federico Dimarco will be fit to face England in Naples.

Manuel Locatelli believes he was overlooked for Italy's latest squad on technical merits, with the Juventus midfielder now determined to earn a recall.

Locatelli was omitted from coach Roberto Mancini's latest Azzurri squad for their Euro 2024 qualifiers with England and Malta this week.

A member of the Italy team that defeated the former in the Euro 2020 final, the 25-year-old won his most recent cap in June against the Three Lions again.

But he will not face them this time around, with the Bianconeri man revealing he did not receive a call from the national team coach to inform him either way.

"I was sad about not being called up to the national team," he told Rai Sport. "I'm being honest. I didn't hear from Mancini."

Locatelli missed Italy's last two squads in September and October, having been injured in the first instance before citing personal reasons for his subsequent absence.

Asked whether he felt his omission was punishment, the midfielder pushed back on the suggestion, citing the belief it came down to Mancini's tactical preference.

"[Was it for] disciplinary reasons? Absolutely not," he added. "I think it was a technical choice. I'll work harder on the pitch to get back there."

Italy host England in Naples on Thursday, before they travel to face Malta three days later, in their first matches since two friendlies in November.

The Azzurri missed out on qualification for last year's World Cup in Qatar, and will be determined to ensure they reach Euro 2024 in order to defend their title.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has conceded his side have "serious problems" in attack ahead of the Euro 2024 qualifiers that start later this month. 

The Azzurri are the defending European champions, having beaten England on penalties at Wembley in the Euro 2020 final. 

Mancini's men have been drawn in Group C with England again in qualifying, alongside Malta, Ukraine and North Macedonia – who they lost to in the World Cup play-offs.

Italy will be desperate to make up for the disappointment of not reaching Qatar 2022 and begin their latest campaign at home to England on March 23 before travelling to Malta three days later. 

Speaking to Il Messaggero ahead of the international break, however, Mancini acknowledged concern over his side's attacking options. 

He said: "The problems are serious. [Ciro] Immobile is out, perhaps [Giacomo] Raspadori, too. There are big questions.

"Most of our centre-forwards have played very little in recent months. We don't have one who is a starter, except for [Wilfried] Gnonto, who is used a little wider at Leeds and can act as a centre-forward.

"But otherwise, we are in bad shape: even [Gianluca] Scamacca is recovering from an injury, [Andrea] Belotti plays little.

"There are solutions in defence and in midfield. It's there in attack that we have problems but not because there aren't any talents. They have to play, and they don't play."

One option for Mancini could be to recall former Roma forward Nicolo Zaniolo, who joined Galatasaray on a permanent deal in February. 

There's also the possibility of a first call-up for Andrea Compagno, who has scored 16 times this season in Romania's Liga I.

These fixtures will mark Italy's first games since the death of Gianluca Vialli, a member of their coaching staff and a very close friend of Mancini.

"They will be difficult days," Mancini said. "The great emptiness that I feel every day we will feel stronger. All that he left us must be useful for our present and our future."

Italy have not played since November 20 last year when they lost 2-0 to Austria in a friendly. 

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