Roberto Mancini has warned his buoyant Italy side to be on their guard as they prepare to kick off their Euro 2020 campaign against Turkey at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Mancini’s men go into the tournament as one of the favourites for the title after launching themselves on a 27-match unbeaten run, including winning all 10 of their qualifying games.
But Mancini, who spent a year coaching Galatasaray in the Turkish Super Lig, is all too aware of the threat posed by his opponents, and the possibility of freezing on the big occasion.
Mancini told a press conference: “The first match is always the most difficult. We must shake off the tension and not think about other things, just focus on what needs to get done.
“There will be a little more pressure with it being the opening match of the tournament, and Turkey are packed with talent, but it remains just another match and we have to focus on that.”
Mancini, who is already missing Marco Verratti, suffered another blow in the build-up to the game when Lorenzo Pellegrini was forced out with a muscle injury, and will be replaced by Gaetano Castrovilli.
Mancini, who took over in 2018 when the Italian team was still reeling from failing to qualify for the World Cup, added: “I was positive three years ago and I am even more so now.
“We have excellent players and have forged an excellent team spirit. We’ve had fun and we want to carry on having fun, and I am very confident that we will make it to London.”
Turkey also cruised through Euro 2020 qualification and coach Senol Gunes believes his squad, which features a number of Serie A-based players including Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu and Merih Demiral of Juventus, are capable of an upset.
Gunes said: “It is good having players who are in Serie A clubs, as they know how things work in Italy and the approach these teams take.
“We must not lose concentration, otherwise there could be real problems. The first and last games of the group are fundamental and they can change the balance of the whole situation.
“It will be hard-fought in technical, tactical and physical terms. I want to see the quality of my players on show. This is a game between two strong teams and I believe Turkey can win.”