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Barella set to start Italy’s Euro 2024 opener with Albania

Nicolo Barella will feature in the opening match of Italy’s European Championship title defence against Albania, coach Luciano Spalletti said Friday.

Inter Milan midfielder Barella missed both of Italy’s pre-tournament warm-up matches against Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina with a thigh injury but Spalletii told reporters the 27-year-old would be available on Saturday as long as he didn’t hurt himself in Friday’s afternoon training session.

Barella is one of a handful of veterans from Italy’s thrilling triumph at the last Euros three years ago in the current squad and he comes into the tournament after a fantastic season for Serie A champions Inter.

“Yesterday he did everything in training. He will participate in training matches later today and we’ll take that into consideration. And we’ll wait on how he feels because he’s had a similar problem in the past,” Spalletti told reporters in Dortmund, where Saturday’s match will be played.

“However, everything we saw yesterday evening suggests that he will be available tomorrow.”

The Azzurri are the title-holders but are going through another major upheaval after missing out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with Spalletti selecting a host of fresh faces and trying to bring in a more fluid and expansive style of football. 

“It’s important that you have your own style, that’s what we’ve been working on. But sometimes you come up against good teams who can stop you doing what you want,” Spalletti added.

“I’m convinced that our team will show what it’s made of and the type of football it wants to play. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll get the results that we want.”

Italy also face Spain and Croatia in a difficult Group B as they begin their Euros campaign in the same stadium where they beat Germany in the semi-finals on their way to winning the 2006 World Cup.

And those two later fixtures make Saturday’s match hugely important, as with the four best third-place finishers in the six groups reaching the knockout stages, a win over Albania would give Italy a great chance of going through.

However, ten of Sylvinho’s Albania squad play in Italy, and captain Gianluigi Donnarumma said Saturday’s match was the “trickiest” in the group.

“They’re a good team, very quick and play good football. Tomorrow we can’t play at just 70-80 percent of our best but at 100 percent,” said goalkeeper Donnarumma.

“We have two other difficult matches in a difficult group so winning tomorrow puts us in a good position. Otherwise you have to get points in two very hard matches…But our aim is to win all three of our matches.

“The spirit is there when you’re in a competition like this, you are already fired up…The team is ready and will try to give everything.” 

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