Spain v Italy preview

Date published: Wednesday 26th June 2013 7:09

The world champions meet Italy in the Confederations Cup semi-final (kick-off 8pm) in a repeat of last year’s European Championships final, in which an all-conquering Spain side brushed Cesare Prandelli’s team aside 4-0 in Kiev.

Italy’s defensive problems have not disappeared entirely – Brazil raced to a 4-2 win in the final group game – but vibrant displays against Mexico and Japan have given Arbeloa and his colleagues food for thought.

When asked which Italy would turn up in Fortaleza, he told Marca: “I don’t know. I don’t think they will be the same side we faced in the final of the Euros, though. They were a bit more carefree and wanted more of the ball so that was better for us.”

The Real Madrid full-back agreed that Italy no longer bank on a rigid defensive structure to grind out results, rather basing their game around a fluid attacking trident orchestrated by playmaker Andrea Pirlo.

“It’s not the Italy team that used ‘catenaccio’, where seven or eight players piled back into the defence,” Arbeloa added.

“This Italy side is full of technically gifted players, with Pirlo there to bend the team to his will. This is indeed a different Italy side, but all that matter is that we maintain our own style of play.”

Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, who scored five goals in the group stages, will fancy his chances of starting but coach Vicente del Bosque could turn to Roberto Soldado of Valencia instead.

Italy, meanwhile, are without Mario Balotelli after the striker flew back to Milan with a leg injury.

His AC Milan team-mate, full-back Ignazio Abate, and Paris St Germain goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu are also doubtful to feature but Pirlo should after missing the Brazil game.

Claudio Marchisio would otherwise continue in his place and the Juventus midfielder reminded his colleagues of their convincing display against Spain at the beginning of last year’s Euros.

He told “We have to make sure we keep it tight, like we did in that game. We put the world champions in a lot of difficulty on that occasion.

“We messed up in the final but that can only help us to avoid making similar mistakes this time round.”

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Spain v Italy preview

Date published: Saturday 9th June 2012 1:40

Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque has challenged his side to make history ahead of the launch of their Euro 2012 title defence against Italy.

The Spaniards, who won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, are trying to become the first team to win three successive major international tournaments.

“We have an aim that no-one has ever achieved before and that is beautiful,” Del Bosque said. “We do have a lot of pressure because there is a lot of optimism that surrounds us.

“But we are accustomed to the pressure because we are defending the title and we are world champions.

“However, we cannot think that we are out of this world and we are going to win. It would be a huge mistake to have that attitude.”

Injuries have robbed Spain of two key players from the last two title-winning sides in defender Carles Puyol and striker David Villa.

Despite their absences, Spain won their last three friendlies.

Italy, meanwhile, have endured a nightmare month.

A match-fixing scandal disrupted their preparations, with Italy coach Cesare Prandelli forced to drop Zenit St Petersburg defender Domenico Criscito from the squad as he is under investigation.

The Azzurri, who went unbeaten in qualifying, then lost 3-0 to Russia in their only warm-up match before the tournament to slump to their third straight defeat in friendlies.

Italian football was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal in 2006, however, and still managed to win the World Cup in Germany.

“Italy are a difficult team to face,” Del Bosque said. “They play together and our last friendly against them is a valid reference.

“They haven’t changed their style.

“I predict a difficult game because it is our first game and, on top of it, we face a team like Italy.”

The Azzurri, eliminated by Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 on penalties, beat La Roja in a friendly in August 2011.

And Prandelli, whose side conceded just two goals in nine Euro 2012 qualifying games, is optimistic.

“Spain are very strong but we have beaten them and no team is invincible,” he said. “I have a team with character, quality and willingness.”

Manchester City’s maverick forward Mario Balotelli is set to partner Antonio Cassano in Italy’s attack.

“I have asked Balotelli to do the talking on the pitch,” Prandelli said. “He has an extraordinary opportunity and cannot throw it away.”

With Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli out with a calf injury, Prandelli has opted to shift Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi to a defensive role and he will play alongside Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in Italy’s back line.

For Spain, Raul Albiol is set to replace Puyol while Gerard Pique will partner Sergio Ramos at the heart the defence.

Del Bosque is set to leave Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, who scored the winning goal for Spain to be crowned European champions, on the bench with Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo expected to play in attack.

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