John Stones’ injury has given England manager Gareth Southgate the chance to explore his centre-back options in the Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.

The City defender was forced off with a problem in Tuesday’s Champions League win over Young Boys with boss Pep Guardiola admitting it is “deep bad news”.

Stones only returned to action in October after a two-month absence with hamstring and hip problems but Southgate had no hesitation in starting him in the important qualifying win over Italy.

But with qualification for the summer’s tournament in Germany already secured, Southgate – who names his squad on Thursday – can afford to look at his back-up options.

Brighton captain Lewis Dunk and AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori started together in last month’s friendly win over Australia but Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi was the man Southgate opted to replace Stones for the final 27 minutes against Italy and has the most caps of the trio.

Injuries to Ben Chilwell and Luke Shaw meant Kieran Trippier filled in at left-back against Italy but Chelsea’s Levi Colwill started against Australia and could be another one to benefit from any experimentation.

Colwill’s club captain Reece James could be in for a recall having returned from injury while Chelsea team-mate Raheem Sterling will be hoping two goals and some improved form in his last five matches will earn him a call-up for the first time since the World Cup.

Those chances could be enhanced depending on the extent of the ankle injury sustained by James Maddison during Tottenham’s loss to Chelsea on Monday and how significant the hamstring problem which forced off Callum Wilson in Newcastle’s Champions League defeat against Borussia Dortmund.

But Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka should return after withdrawing from the squad in October.

Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips’ 49 minutes of action since his international start against Italy is unlikely to count against him, but James Ward-Prowse is knocking on the door of a first call-up in 14 months after a number of good performances for West Ham.

Sami Depass, the reigning champion of the National Powerlifting Association of Jamaica (NPAJ), had been eagerly anticipating her first-ever appearance at the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Classic Open Powerlifting Championships.

Held in St. Julians, Malta, on June 16, 2023, this prestigious event brought together powerlifters from 65-member nations taking part and over 400 lifters, 37 referees, and 257 other officials, the largest and most diverse participation in any Open Classic World Championship ever.

Competing in the highly competitive female -76kg weight class, Depass faced formidable opponents from around the world. The category initially had 26 entries, but unfortunately, one lifter was unable to participate, reducing the number of contenders to 25.

Placed in Group B along with 16 other talented athletes and Group A consisting of 9 athletes, she approached the championship with determination and confidence. Having clinched the NPAJ 2021 and 2022 titles as well as the NAPF 76kg female championship in Panama 2022, she was no stranger to the thrill of victory.

However, the IPF World Classic Open Powerlifting Championships marked a new level of competition for her. With the support of her coach, Arian Khamesi, her teammate and her father, and the entire NPAJ community watching from all over the world, Depass embraced the intense training and preparation required for the tournament.

Her hard work and dedication paid off as she dominated her group, emerging as the top performer in Group B. Depass, a determined and dedicated powerlifter, stepped onto the stage for the Squat - 76kg Group B competition.

With unwavering focus, she pushed herself to new heights. As the competition unfolded, Sami's strength and skill were on full display. With her first attempt, she lifted an impressive 175kg/365 lbs., setting the tone for her performance.

Undeterred by the weight, she advanced to her second attempt, surpassing her previous lift by adding 10kg to the bar. The crowd erupted in applause as she successfully lifted 185kg/407 lbs. showcasing her exceptional power and technique.

Emboldened by her earlier triumphs, Depass prepared for her third and final attempt. She approached the bar, determination radiating from her every pore. With sheer determination and raw strength, she conquered the weight, hoisting an astonishing 195kg/429 lbs.

The arena was engulfed in thunderous cheers as Sami not only secured her victory but also set a new NPAJ National Record, etching her name in the annals of powerlifting history. Buoyed by her success in the squat event, Sami eagerly embraced the next challenge the Bench Press. Despite facing formidable opponents, her resolve remained unyielding.

She opened her campaign with a solid 100kg/220 lbs. bench press, setting the stage for her ascent. As the competition intensified, she gathered her strength and tackled her second attempt with conviction. The weight of 105kg/231 lbs. proved to be no match for her as she flawlessly executed the lift. The crowd watched in awe as she continued to shatter records and push her limits. With her final bench press attempt, Sami faced the bar loaded with an awe-inspiring 110kg/242 lbs.

 Summoning every ounce of strength within her, she powered through the resistance, conquering the weight and securing yet another triumph. The air buzzed with exhilaration as Sami not only clinched a remarkable third-place finish in her group but also achieved a new NPAJ National Record, further cementing her legacy.

Undeterred by her previous achievements, she embarked on the final leg of her journey, the Deadlift.

The intensity in her eyes matched the weight on the bar as she prepared for her first attempt. Without a hint of hesitation, Depass lifted an astounding 205kg/451 lbs. igniting the crowd's fervor before advancing to her second attempt.

Depass then a new personal best by deadlifting an astonishing 217.5kg/478.50 lbs. The audience marveled at her incredible display of power, knowing they were witnessing something truly extraordinary.

With her final lift of the day, Depass stood before the bar loaded with a mind-boggling 227.5kg/500.50 lbs. which she failed to lift in 2022.

The arena fell into hushed anticipation, fully aware of the historic feat that was about to unfold. In a moment that seemed to defy human capability, her muscles surged with energy, lifting the colossal weight with unparalleled prowess.

The crowd erupted in jubilant celebration as Sami claimed her victory in the group stage and secured a remarkable seventh-place finish overall in the standing. Her accomplishments did not end there, however.

Her awe-inspiring performance in the deadlift event also set a new NPAJ National Record, further solidifying her status as a force to be reckoned with in the world of powerlifting.

With her remarkable performance, Sami was the winner of the 76kg Group B. Depass' achievement of a perfect 9 out of 9 lifts during the event and the subsequent medal she received are a testament to her hard work and talent in powerlifting.

She shattered three new NPAJ records, surpassing even her previous accomplishments. After the completion of Group A, Sami Depass secured the seventh position overall in the female -76kg weight class at her first event IPF World Classic.

Her exceptional performance at the IPF Open Classic World Championship in Malta solidified her status as a rising star in the world of powerlifting. Her achievements served as an inspiration to aspiring powerlifters in Jamaica and beyond.

The National Powerlifting Association of Jamaica proudly celebrated her success, recognizing her as a true representative of their organization and the embodiment of strength and resilience. The competition was fierce and the stakes were high.

Karlina Tongotea, hailing from New Zealand, emerged as the ultimate champion. She pushed herself to new heights. Tongotea shattered the world record in the squat, impressively lifting 225.5kg (496.10 lbs.). Her incredible performance continued with a bench press of 122.5kg (269.50 lbs.) and a deadlift of 245kg (539 lbs.). With a total of 593kg (1,304.60 lbs.), she dominated the competition, claiming the gold medal and the title of world champion. Her achievement was further acknowledged with an impressive GL Points score of 117.17.

Agata Sitko, representing Poland, proved to be a formidable competitor. Her strength and determination were evident as she showcased her skills. She achieved a squat of 197.5kg (434.50 lbs.) and a bench press of 240kg (528 lbs.), setting a new world junior record. Her exceptional performance continued with a total of 590.5kg (1,299.10 lbs.), another world junior record.

Her outstanding performance secured her the runner-up position and a well-deserved silver medal. Her GL Points stood at an impressive 116.71.

Jessica Buettner, from Canada, also displayed her exceptional powerlifting abilities. With a powerful squat of 220kg (484 lbs.) and a bench press of 107.5kg (236.50 lbs.), she showcased her strength and determination. Her deadlift of 240kg (528 lbs.) further solidified her position in the competition. With a total of 567.5kg (1,248.50 lbs.) and a commendable GL Points score of 112.34, she secured the third-place position on the podium, earning a bronze medal.

Callum Wilson hailed England’s clinical nature after they breezed past Malta.

The Newcastle striker came off the bench to score a penalty and wrap up a 4-0 Euro 2024 qualifying win on Friday.

Ferdinando Apap’s own goal, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s stunner and Harry Kane’s spot-kick put England in control before the break.

It tightened their grip on top spot in Group C ahead of Monday’s clash with North Macedonia in Manchester.

Wilson said: “We were very clinical and ruthless in the first half and it kind of put the game to bed and then it gives players like myself an opportunity to get on the pitch.

“We’ve not played as a team in a while and the Premier League ended about two-and-a-half weeks ago and we blew away the cobwebs during the week and put in a great performance against Malta.

“Any time you have away from the football field you’re going to have a bit of rust when you come back to it but we managed to keep in shape and come back.

“The intensity of training is always high and the standard is really high.”

The 31-year-old replaced Kane after an hour and won the penalty when his cross hit Steve Borg’s hand to add a fourth with seven minutes left, just his second goal and first since scoring on his debut against the USA in November 2018.

“I managed to get in the position and I see Phil Foden in the box and when it was blocked I was one of the first people to call for it,” he told the BBC.

“It was about a minute after the referee blew the whistle and we weren’t sure what was going on as we didn’t know if we had VAR. I was happy to step up and take it and put it away.

“It has been a wait. It’s always an honour to play for your country and then to score it tops it all off really.

“It makes all of the hard work that you’ve put in to get yourself here worthwhile. Probably the only downside is that I didn’t score more. I had a couple of chances but it was a great team performance.”

Gareth Southgate praised Trent Alexander-Arnold for buying into England’s midfield experiment and showing what he was capable of in the comfortable win away to Malta.

The 24-year-old may be an established star at Liverpool but he has often flattered to deceive with the national team, with intense competition at right-back restricting opportunities.

Alexander-Arnold struggled in a midfield against Andorra when Southgate tried him there in September 2021, but things worked far better in Malta as he won just his 19th cap on Friday evening.

The England star had a hand in all three first-half goals, including curling home superbly either side of Ferdinando Apap’s own goal and a Harry Kane penalty.

Substitute Callum Wilson completed a 4-0 win with a spot-kick of his own but this was Alexander-Arnold’s night as Southgate’s side continued their winning start to Euro 2024 qualification.

“Inevitably a lot of what happens is going to be a little bit dependent on his club,” the England boss said.

“The fact that he’s been playing partly in there with the ball, albeit a bit deeper, I think has helped his transition tonight.

“What was pleasing tonight, he’s getting used to receiving in tight areas with his back to goal, with players behind him.

“Whereas he’s used to receiving on the touchline, with the play in front of him, and he was very comfortable doing that.

“Look, I’ve got no questions in my head he can do it. It’s just learning some nuances of the role, without the ball especially very different for him.

“But he’s very keen to do it. He’s enjoyed the sort of project, if you like.

“We talked about it about four weeks ago on the phone, and I think he’s been excited by it and, yeah, he showed exactly what we think he could be capable of. He gives us something different to our other midfield players.”

This was a far more simple night for England compared to their last trip to Malta, when a drab, goalless first half against the limited hosts saw the travelling support turn on the team.

Southgate’s side have come a long way in the six intervening years and there was never any danger of their 100 per cent Euro 2024 qualification record slipping in their third Group C match.

“Of course we know we have the quality to win the games, but it’s about your mentality then and I thought that was excellent right from the start,” Southgate said.

“We tried to balance looking at a few things with some experienced players that give you leadership on the pitch and set the tone. That’s how they’ve trained all week.

“In particular when we lost the ball, the reaction to winning it back was a sign that the team were in a good place mentally.

“Then of course some really good quality for the first couple of goals, especially, so yeah, we’ve made it look fairly straightforward.

“That, as we know from last time, here isn’t always the case!

“We’ve been able to look at a few things, we’ve been able to get players on, we’ve been able to get some players off, so very pleased with the night.”

England now turn their attention to Monday’s home game North Macedonia after preventing Malta – ranked 172nd in the world – from having a shot in their box, never mind an attempt on goal.

Head coach Michele Marcolini said: “I think that we don’t shoot on goal because England for 90 minutes pressed very high and didn’t give us the chance to play easy. Never, never.

“To be honest, the difference physically was clear. To build the action easily, we cannot, to be honest.

“We are sorry about that but at the end we have to be honest and say that this kind of match for us with this kind of behaviour from the opponent it’s very tough.

“When you play with this difference between the teams, you have to hope that the opponent comes here a little bit calmer or they take the match easily.

“But this didn’t happen today because England has an amazing attitude on the pitch from the first minute until the end.”

Trent Alexander-Arnold scored a stunner and sparkled in midfield as England continued their march to Euro 2024 with a comprehensive victory against minnows Malta.

The talented full-back has rarely looked like the player that shines for Liverpool when donning a Three Lions shirt, with the immense competition at right-back also restricting his opportunities.

Alexander-Arnold won just his 19th England cap on Friday night against Malta and impressed in a midfield role, helping to inspire Gareth Southgate’s side to a straightforward 4-0 victory.

The 24-year-old made an impact from outset at the sold-out Ta’ Qali National Stadium, with this exceptional early pass putting Bukayo Saka behind to produce a cross that Ferdinando Apap turned into his own goal.

Alexander-Arnold continued to star and produced a moment of magic in the 28th minute, taking aim from 23 yards as he curled home just his second England goal.

The midfielder also had a hand in England’s third goal, winning the ball high up the pitch at the start of a move that ended with Harry Kane scoring a penalty.

There was a far better mood in the away section than the last trip to Malta in 2017, when Southgate’s side were jeered off after a scoreless first half as many travelling fans made an early exit.

Large numbers of England fans again departed at half-time this time around, but it was to toast a job well done rather than to grumble over beers like six years ago.

In truth, they missed little aside from substitute Callum Wilson converting a late penalty as Southgate’s men continued their 100 per cent start in Group C.

Scott Jennings, a formidable powerlifter hailing from Jamaica, embarked on his powerlifting journey when he joined The National Powerlifting Association of Jamaica Limited (NPAJ) on August 3, 2021.

With a relentless drive for success, Jennings quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with in the sport. As his journey progressed, Scott received the exciting news that he had qualified to compete in the highly anticipated International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Championship, to be held in Valletta, Malta.

Set to face thirty-five (35) other competitors in the fiercely competitive 83kg weight class, Scott eagerly prepared himself for the challenge ahead. Scott's breakthrough moment came in November 2021 at the NPAJ National Championship, where he showcased his incredible strength and technique.

With impressive SBD scores of 251.7kg/555 lbs. in the squat, 170.1kg/375 lbs. in the bench press, and 310.7kg/685 lbs. in the deadlift, he achieved a total of 732.5kg/ 1,615 lbs. with a 102.08 GLP.

His outstanding performance earned him the gold medal in the male 83kg category, as well as first place overall out of twenty (20) athletes. Continuing his streak of success, Scott was invited to compete as a guest lifter at the Powerlifting America Classic Open Nationals in April 2022.

Despite not being eligible for overall placement, he proved his dominance in the male 83kg category with remarkable SBD scores of 257.5kg/567.70 lbs. in the squat, 165kg/363.7 lbs. in the bench press, and 325kg/716.50 lbs. in the deadlift, totaling 747.5kg/1,647.90 with a 104.34 GLP.

Scott's outstanding performance earned him the gold medal, cementing his position as a force to be reckoned with among his weight class. His Score placed him in sixteenth (16) position out of forty-six (46) athletes who participated in the event. In August 2022, Scott faced his next challenge at the North America Powerlifting Federation (NAPF) Regional Championships.

Determined to prove his skills on a larger stage, he competed against a formidable field of nine (9) athletes. With unwavering determination, Scott once again emerged victorious in the male 83kg category, achieving SBD scores of 247.5kg/545.60 lbs. in the squat, 172.5kg/380.30 lbs. in the bench press, and 312.5kg/688.90 lbs. in the deadlift, totaling 732.5kg/1,614.90 lbs. with a 101.78 GLP.

His exceptional performance garnered him the gold medal and an impressive third-place finish overall out of two hundred and sixteen (216) athletes.

Ending the year on a high note, Scott returned to the NPAJ National Championship in December 2022, ready to defend his title. With unparalleled strength and focus, he outperformed his competitors once again. Scott achieved remarkable SBD scores of 265.3kg/585 lbs. in the squat, 176.9kg/390 lbs. in the bench press, and 322kg/710 lbs. in the deadlift, totaling an impressive 764.3kg/1,685 lbs. with a 106.25 GLP.

His exceptional performance secured him the gold medal in the male 83kg category and first place overall out of twenty-four (24) athletes.

Now, in June 2023, the National Powerlifting Association of Jamaica Limited (NPAJ) proudly supports Scott Jennings as he journeys to Valletta, Malta, to compete in the prestigious International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Championships. Among thirty-five other fierce competitors in the 83kg weight class, Jennings aims to showcase the indomitable spirit and unwavering determination of Jamaican powerlifters. With the support of the NPAJ and the nation behind him, Jennings embodies the motto "One Team, One Dream, One Goal." Jamaica, known for its resilience and determination, stands tall and proud as Jennings represents the NPAJ and Jamaica on the world stage. As many Jamaicans would say “We likkle but we tallawah”.

In a remarkable display of strength and determination, Sami DePass, the pride of Jamaica, is embarking on a monumental journey to represent the National Powerlifting Association of Jamaica Limited (NPAJ) at the highly anticipated International Powerlifting World (IPF) Classic Open Powerlifting Championships. Set in the scenic city of St. Julians, Malta, the event will be held from June 11th to June 18th, 2023, and promises to be a showcase of powerlifting excellence.

Since joining the NPAJ on August 24th, 2021, Sami DePass has dominated the sport, leaving a trail of success in her wake. With each outing, she has consistently showcased her phenomenal talent and indomitable spirit. The upcoming championship in Malta presents another golden opportunity for Sami to further cement her status as an unstoppable force in powerlifting.

Competing in the 76kg weight class, Sami will face off against twenty-six elite athletes from around the world. Standing at the precipice of greatness, she aims to continue her triumphant streak, having already clinched four gold medals in all her previous outings. Her impressive statistics and outstanding performances have solidified her reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the powerlifting community.

A closer look at Sami DePass'' career reveals her extraordinary achievements and remarkable statistics that have propelled her to the forefront of powerlifting.

In 2021, she won the gold medal and the title of NPAJ National Champion for the female 76kg category. Her incredible statistics included a squat of 181.4kg, a bench press of 90.7kg, and a deadlift of 213.1kg, totaling a staggering 485.3kg. With an outstanding 96.62 GPL score, Sami claimed the second overall position among 19 remarkable athletes.

Continuing her ascent in the sport, she journeyed to Texas the following year, where she struck gold as a guest lifter at the 2022 Powerlifting America Classic Open Nationals in the 76kg category. Displaying unparalleled strength, she achieved a squat of 190kg, a bench press of 97.5kg, and a deadlift of 217.5kg, culminating in an impressive total of 505kg. Her remarkable 99.86 GPL score would have secured her a second-place finish out of three phenomenal athletes.

Returning to her homeland, Sami reaffirmed her dominance by claiming her third gold medal and the title of NPAJ National Champion for the female 76kg category in 2022. Her outstanding performance included a squat of 190.5kg, a bench press of 102kg, and a deadlift of 219.9kg, resulting in a remarkable total of 512.5kg. With a resounding 101.37 GPL score, Sami secured the third overall position among twenty-two formidable athletes.

Furthermore, Sami etched her name in the annals of powerlifting history by triumphing at the 19th edition of the NAPF Champion in Panama for the female 76kg category in 2022, claiming yet another gold medal. She demonstrated her incredible strength by achieving a squat of 185.5kg, a bench press of 92.5kg, and a deadlift of 220.5kg, resulting in an impressive total of 503.5kg. Her remarkable 99.4 GPL score placed her fifth overall out of an astonishing one hundred and seventy-six athletes.

As Sami embarks on her journey to Malta, she carries with her the hopes and dreams of the NPAJ and the entire nation of Jamaica. She embodies the spirit of Jamaica's famous saying, "we little but we tallawah," with her unwavering determination and indomitable spirit. Sami aims to conquer the international powerlifting world and make her mark on the global stage.

With the motto "One Team, One Dream, One Goal," the NPAJ stands firmly behind Sami DePass as she competes at the International Powerlifting World Championships in Malta. The entire nation is united in its support for this extraordinary athlete, wishing her strength, focus, and unparalleled success as she proudly represents Jamaica on the global stage.


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."

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.

Gareth Southgate declared England must improve on their poor record against Italy after the two nations were drawn together in a "tough" Euro 2024 qualification group.

The teams faced each other in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley Stadium last year, with Italy emerging victorious on penalties to win their first European Championship trophy since 1968 and deny England their first major title in 55 years.

The sides also met twice in the recent Nations League campaign, playing out a goalless draw at Molineux in June before Giacomo Raspadori gave Italy a 1-0 triumph in the return fixture at San Siro in September.

The Three Lions have not beaten Italy in six attempts since a 2-1 victory in 2012, and Southgate says that run needs to end.

"England's record against Italy generally is not very good," Southgate told Sky Sports. "So we've got to improve that.

"There's not too many surprises, they've changed the team a lot for all of those different matches.

"We know the quality they have, we know the depth that they have."

England and Italy have been drawn in Group C alongside Ukraine, Malta and North Macedonia, the latter of whom knocked the Azzurri out of the World Cup play-offs earlier this year, preventing the European champions from making it to Qatar.

Southgate acknowledged the overall difficulty of the group, adding: "It's clearly a tough draw, given the quality of the opposition.

"But we've had draws in qualification that have probably been a little bit more comfortable than that, although I'd have to say Poland and Hungary in the last qualifying group was particularly tough as well, so we're used to that.

"The draws are what they are, it's how you perform on the day."

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