Soccer-Italy's Barella is on track for Euro opener, Spalletti says


Soccer Football - Serie A - Inter Milan v Cagliari - San Siro, Milan, Italy - April 14, 2024 Inter Milan's Nicolo Barella celebrates a goal later disallowed REUTERS/Claudia Greco/ File Photo

DORTMUND, Germany (Reuters) -Italy's lynchpin midfielder Nicolo Barella is likely to be available for selection in the reigning champions' opening match at Euro 2024 against Albania on Saturday after recovering from a minor injury, coach Luciano Spalletti said on Friday.

Asked by reporters about Barella's fitness following a muscle problem, Spalletti said the box-to-box dynamo had come through a training session on Thursday with no problems.

"Yesterday he did everything," the former Napoli coach said, adding that the squad were due to hold a light session on Friday.

"We will see what happens today. We will see how he feels," he said, adding that the medical team had to be careful given Barella's recent problems. "But as of yesterday evening, everything suggests that he will be available for selection."

Barella was at the heart of Inter's league-winning team last season and was a key member of the Italy side which won Euro 2020. But he missed Italy's last two friendlies before this year's tournament with a muscle strain.

As well as Albania, Italy face Spain and Croatia in Group B which looks like the toughest group in Germany, putting pressure on the Azzurri to get all three points in Dortmund on Saturday.

"The first game is always important and we have two games later that are difficult," Italy goalkeeper and captain Gianluigi Donnarumma said. "A win tomorrow gives us a bit more peace of mind."

Nearly half of Albania's squad members play in Italy's Serie A league, meaning they would be well prepared for the encounter, Donnarumma said.

"They are very, very fast," he said. "We must be careful not to get stretched because they are very good on the counter-attack."

Italy come into the tournament with Spalletti having taken over the team only last September. But he has already left his mark in at least one way -- laying down clear rules on how players spend their leisure time, especially late at night.

Striker Gianluca Scamacca missed friendly games in March when Spalletti complained about players staying awake until four o'clock in the morning playing video games while on international duty.

"What I care about is that they sleep at night," the coach said. "I don’t want them to wake up tired."

But he denied that he had barred them from playing video games, saying they were allowed in a games room at the squad's training camp. "They all play, even I play. But they do it at the right times."

(Reporting by William Schomberg; editing by Clare Fallon)

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