Italy stand-in coach loses count of absentees for Poland match

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(Reuters) - Italy's assistant coach Alberico Evani has lost count of the number of absentees for Sunday's Nations League match at home to Poland, he said on the eve of the match as his squad battles COVID-19 infections, injuries and fatigue.

Evani has stepped in for Italy coach Roberto Mancini, who is self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19 last week, while striker Ciro Immobile has been prevented from playing by an inconclusive coronavirus test.

Defender Leonardo Bonucci ruled himself out with a thigh problem, postponing his 100th Italy appearance, while midfielder Roberto Gagliardini and forward Andrea Belotti are not fully fit for the game in Reggio Emilia.

"Frankly, I've lost count of the guys who will be out of action tomorrow but this is a team that gets stronger in difficulties," Evani told reporters.

"For tomorrow, the priority will be to understand who is in a position to play without taking risks. The eleven who are the best shape will play, we cannot risk having to make a substitution after a few minutes."

He added that Mancini, who also missed the 4-0 win over Estonia on Wednesday, was frustrated at missing another match.

"Mancini's state of mind can be imagined because he wants to be close to the team," said Evani. "Even if he is not physically present, he still helps us in managing the team."

Italy are second in Nations League A Group 1 with six points from four games, a point behind Poland.

(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Ken Ferris)