Antonio Conte spoke to Genovese daily Il Secolo XIX ahead of today’s friendly match against Albania at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris.
“We’re here first of all to show our personal solidarity with a city that’s suffered more than one disaster in the last few years,” Conte assured the journal.
“Our objective here is to let the fans enjoy themselves for an evening and think about something other than their troubles for a while. We also, in concerted effort with the FIGC, are raising money to contribute to a relief fund for the city.”
Genova has in recent months been crippled by torrential rains that caused devastating floods and pressured an already aging city infrastructure, disrupting daily life for thousands of people.
In addition to being a charity match for the benefit of the city of Genova and Liguria region, the match is widely expected to be used by Conte as an experimental lab to test new players and tactical approaches, as he rebuilds the team looking forward to Euro 2016. Tonight’s predicted starting squad contains a notable number of players from Genoa and Sampdoria, among them goalkeeper Mattia Perin and midfielder Stefano Sturaro. Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci will take the captain’s armband. Young Empoli defender Daniele Rugani is among those expected to receive his first senior cap. A notable exclusion from the team, however, is Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli, whose call-up in the original squad to face Croatia proved controversial. Balotelli abruptly left the training camp and returned to England on Sunday morning, officially due to a muscular inflammation in his groin area. But in an interview with RaiSport today, Conte had strong words to suggest more than a simple training injury played a part in his departure from the team:
“I’m not so arrogant as to think that I’m any different than the other great coaches who have tried and failed to change Balotelli,” said Conte. “It’s up to him now. I don’t have that much spare time and certain things would take quite a lot of time.”