Euro 2012 Preview: Spain vs Italy

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Euro 2012 Preview: Spain vs Italy
Gdansk, Jun 10: Spain begin their title defence against former European Champions Italy in their Euro 2012 Group C opener played at the PGE Arena Gdansk in Gdansk.

Spain will start without their all-time goal-scorer David Villa, who is ruled out of the tournament due to a shin injury. Another influential player, defender Carles Puyol, who has been an inspiration over half-a-decade, will be sorely missed.

Chelsea striker Fernendo Torres is likely to get the nod ahead of Fernendo Llorente and Alvaro Negredo. The Champions League winner has shown promising signs of good form towards the end of last season. Barcelona's attacking midfielder Cesc Fabregas is likely to be rested after suffering injury during Barcelona's copa del rey win.

Coach Vicente Del Bosque may opt for a 4-2-3-1 formation against the clever and tricky Italians. Both teams are familiar of each others tactics and therefore may go ahead with a defensive approach. Unlike the usual 4-3-3, Spain may plan to move ahead cautiously considering the likes of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano ready to break on the counter.

Premier league winner David Silva's impressive season with Manchester City may tempt Del Bosque to opt the former Valencia playmaker ahead of Chelsea's Juan Mata. Silva could partner Xavi Hernendez and Andres Iniesta in the middle while World cup winning defensive midfield duo of Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets will continue to play deep in their own half.

The back-line consists make-shift central defender Sergio Ramos along with Gerard Pique. Impressive left-back Jordi Alba is likely to start while Alvaro Arbeloa will play on the opposite flank.

The Italians on the other hand, have never won a match in 2012. Russia showed their dominance in the recent friendly against the Azzurri, thrashing them 3-0 while United States and Uruguay had beaten them a few months ago.

Though Italy topped their qualifying Group, Cesare Prandelli's men lack the spirit and intensity to take on a side filled with stars. The back four remains key after conceding only two goals during the qualifiers.

World Cup winner in 2006, Andrea Pirlo will lead the midfield along with Danielle De Rossi, Thiago Motta, Claudio Marchisio and Riccardo Montolivo while Cassano, top-scorer during the qualifying stage, and Balotelli are expected to start upfront.

Past records have been even for both sides but Spain beat Italy on penalties during the semi-finals
of Euro 2008 while in a friendly game in August 2011, Italy won 2-1 thanks to Alberto Aquilani's late strike.

But the Italians can surprise any side when least expected. Spain are likely to dominate possession while Italy would sit back and soak up the pressure, but try to break on the counter. Spain's back-line looks shaky but when moving forward, the Reds are tipped to be the most dangerous side in the tournament.

PROBABLE LINEUPS:

Spain: Casillas-Arbeloa, Ramos, Pique, Alba-Xabi Alonso, Busquets-Silva, Xavi, Iniesta-Torres.

Italy: Buffon-Bonucci, Balzaretti, Chiellini, Abate-De Rossi, T. Motta, Pirlo, Marchisio, -Balotelli, Cassano.

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