- Associated Press - Monday, March 20, 2017

TIRANA, Albania (AP) - Albania coach Gianni de Biassi will be missing his central defense when the team faces Italy in a World Cup qualifier.

De Biassi named 23 players Monday but he will be without goalkeeper Etrit Berisha and central defender Berat Gjimshiti because of yellow cards. Central defender Mergim Mavraj is injured.

The Albanians will face Italy on Friday in Palermo.

“Our strength is playing as a team,” de Biasi said.

Last year, de Biasi led the country to the European Championship, a historic achievement for the tiny Western Balkan country.

“There was much euphoria after the Euro finals, but losses with Spain and Israel wiped it out,” said de Biasi, who has been Albania coach since 2012.

Albania is fourth in Group G behind Spain, Italy and Israel.



Goalkeepers: Alban Hoxha (Partizani), Orges Shehi (Skenderbeu), Thomas Strakosha (Lazio)

Defenders: Ansi Agolli (Qarabag), Arlind Ajeti (Torino), Albi Alla (Kukesi), Naser Aliji (Kaiserslautern), Elseid Hysaj (Napoli), Frederik Veseli (Empoli)

Midfielders: Burim Kukeli (Zurich), Amir Abrashi (Freiburg), Migjen Basha (Bari), Andi Lila (PAS Giannina), Ledian Memushaj (Pescara), Taulant Xhaka (FC Basel), Eros Grezda (Lokomotiva), Jahmir Hyka (Luzern), Odise Roshi (Terek Grozny), Liridon Latifi Skendebeu)

Forwards: Bekim Balaj (Terek Grozny), Sokol Cikalleshi (Akhisar), Azdren Llullaku (Haz Metan), Armando Saidku (Zurich)

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