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Euro 2012: Spain Vs Italy: Match Preview – Quotes, Bets, Team News, Predictions And More

Holders meet out-of-sorts Italy.

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Three is the magic number for both these sides, as holders Spain aim for an unprecedented third consecutive title and soul-searching Italy look to bounce back from three successive defeats following a disastrous warm-up campaign.

Last August, Italy impressed with a 2-1 friendly win over the Spanish but, competitively, Vicente del Bosque’s side have won 14 games in a row since they lost their 2010 World Cup opener to Switzerland.

They may be big names on paper but don’t expect a classic. Italy are likely to take a leaf out of Chelsea’s book and revert to a 3-5-2 formation, overloading the middle of the park to force Spain out wide, where they are less of a threat. Cue thousands and thousands of passes.

Prediction: 1-0. Holders Spain to win it in the end.

SPAIN

Team news: Cesc Fabregas, Alvaro Arbeloa and Jesus Navas are all expected to be fit after injury scares. Influential Barcelona duo Carles Puyol and David Villa are both absent from the squad through injury.

Familiar faces: Liverpool’s Pepe Reina will act as understudy to number one ‘keeper and captain Iker Casillas, while David Silva of Man City, and Juan Mata and Fernando Torres, both of Chelsea, are pushing for starting places.

One to watch: You know all about the big guns, so keep an eye on Alvaro Negredo. The Real Madrid-reject has six goals in nine games for his country and managed 20 in the league for Sevilla last season, including a brace against Real. He could prove the perfect Villa replacement, particularly if Fernando Torres starts firing blanks.

Soundbite: “We have an aim that no-one has ever achieved before and that is beautiful” – Spain coach Vicente del Bosque eyes history but…

Stat attack: No side has successfully retained the European Championship. The USSR and West Germany reached the final as defending champions, losing in 1964 and 1976 respectively.

What to expect: Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass.

ITALY

Team news: Centre-half Andrea Barzagli will miss the opening two matches with a calf strain but has not been replaced in the squad. His absence should see Daniele De Rossi fill in at the back, with the Azzuri adopting a 3-5-2 formation.

Familiar faces: Only bad-boy Mario Balotelli currently earns his (rather considerable) wage in the Premier League for Man City but young striker Fabio Borini has had spells at Chelsea and Swansea (loan). Barring Pirlo, Buffon and Cassano, there’s less household names than you’d expect actually.


One to watch: Fabio Borini. Fans of Chelsea reserves will remember the 21-year-old striker who dominated that level during a two year stint with the Blues from 2009. Now back in his native Italy with Roma, he forced himself into international contention with nine goals last season. Quick-footed and can finish. It’s always worth keeping Balotelli where you can see him as well.

Soundbite: “I have asked Balotelli to do the talking on the pitch” – Cesare Prandelli, Italy coach, believes he has found a way to control maverick forward Mario Balotelli. Hasn’t Roberto Mancini already tried that one?
Stat attack: True to form, the Azzurri had the best defensive record of any team in qualifying, conceding just two goals in nine games. Gianluigi Buffon saved 92.2% of shots faced as well.
What to expect: Traditional Italian resilience coupled with not-so-traditional chaos (inevitably provided by one of Balotelli or Cassano).

FANCY A FLUTTER?

Best bet: Spain to lead at half-time, match to be drawn: 16/1

Outside bet: Italy to lead 2-1 at half-time: 55/1

Find all live odds for Euro 2012

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