Italy’s fine run at Euro 2020 has led them to the semi-finals and they are expected to maintain their stunning winning form by seeing off Spain at Wembley on Tuesday.
Roberto Mancini’s side have been one of the standout teams in the tournament so far and, after breezing past Turkey, Switzerland and Wales in the group stage, they overcame a wobble to beat Austria in the last-16, before a solid victory over Belgium in the quarters set up this Spain showdown.
Azzurri Ominously Good
The Azzurri have looked like the complete team at Euro 2020 and their long winning run – which now stretches to 13 games – has been built on a mixture of hard work, defensive solidity and real flair in attack.
There have been so many outstanding performers in Mancini’s side it’s hard to pick out individuals but Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini have been rocks at the back, while Jorginho and Marco Verratti have been instrumental in midfield.
In the final third, Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile have carried the creativity and goal threat and it would be a surprise if they now suddenly come unstuck against a talented, but unpredictable, Spanish outfit.
The loss of influential left-back Leonardo Spinazzola to a ruptured Achilles tendon is a blow, however, and Spain may try to target his replacement, who is likely to be Chelsea full-back Emerson, down that side as they search for any weaknesses.
However, the Azzurri still look backable at
29/20 to progress in normal time.
Spain winger Pablo Sarabia misses out with a muscle problem and Dani Olmo is on stand-by to come in for him, while Alvaro Morata will again be deployed as the main man up front.
However, he remains a source of frustration for La Roja, mixing fine goals – like the one he notched against Croatia to help them win their last-16 thriller 5-3 – with plenty of missed chances.
Italy have Historical Edge
The two European heavyweights have met six times previously in the Euros and Italy have the upper hand in the head-to-head record, winning two, including a 2-0 last-16 win at Euro 2016, while there have been three draws.
Spain’s only win was the famous 4-0 final success over the Azzurri in 2012, when their golden generation were securing their second successive European title on the back of being crowned world champions in 2010.
It’s fair to say Luis Enrique’s side are a pale shadow of that team, but they still boast considerable experience and some rising stars in their ranks.
At the back, Jordi Alba and Cesar Azpilicueta will rarely let anyone down, while 18-year-old Barcelona prodigy Pedri has been a joy to watch on the ball, complementing the more established Koke and Sergio Busquets in midfield.
However, they may not quite have enough and the Azzurri are an intriguing possibility at
13/5 to win by a one-goal margin.
Pedri in Heat of Midfield Battle
Pedri believes the semi-final will be won and lost in the middle of the park as he prepares himself for the ultimate test against the in-form Italians.
He said: “Both teams have a very strong midfield and a great deal of quality in that area of the pitch. It’s going to be a very hotly-contested match in midfield. The team that gets the better of it will be the team that makes the fewest mistakes.”
The winners will face either England or Denmark back at Wembley on Sunday and Italy can edge what should be a tight tie.
Mancini’s side’s stunning winning form simply cannot be ignored and they are playing with a real togetherness and confidence, whereas Spain have been far less fluent overall and appear to have a couple of obvious weaknesses.
As has been mentioned above, Italy to win by a single-goal appeals, while both teams to score, on offer at
21/20, is also tempting considering Spain are the top-scorers in the tournament with 12 and Italy have struck 11 times in their five matches to date.
*All odds correct at time of writing