Defending champions Spain take on Italy in a crucial Euro 2016 round of 16 game tonight (June 27). It will be a replay of the 2012 finals where Spain had crushed the Italians 4-0 to bag their second consecutive Euro title. While Spain will be looking forward to repeat their feat against the Italians, the Azzurris will be eyeing revenge and go forward in the tournament.
Antonio Conte's Italy started their campaign on a high by beating tournament dark horses and world number 1 Belgium in the group opener. They confirmed their last 16 berth by beating Sweden by a goal to nil but was shocked by Republic of Ireland in the last match as they conceded an unwanted defeated.
Spain on the other hand had shaky start against Czech Republic as they had to wait for a late winner from Gerard Pique to seal their victory. They came back strongly in the very next match beating Turkey 3-0 to seal their berth. Unfortunately the men in red received a big jolt as Croatia stunned them 2-1. It was their first defeat in Euros since 2004. It is safe to say that the la roja brigade have had a topsy turvy jourbey so far in the tournament.
As the two giants of Europe face each other we make a list 5 key battles from the Spain Vs Italy game.
1. Alvaro Morata Vs Giorgio Chiellini
In the absence of Diego Costa and Fernando Torres in the Spanish squad, young striker Alvaro Morata has stepped up brilliantly. The forward has already thrice in the tournament and will impose a huge threat on the Italian defense. Italy's main man at the back Giorgio Chiellini will be in charge to keep an eye on Morata to keep the scoreline at bay.
2. Graziano Pelle Vs Gerard Pique
Southampton's star forward Graziano Pelle is in a very good form at present. He netted a goal against the mighty Belgians and also impressed with his overall performance. Pelle is Italy's main man upfront and he will be looking forward to scoring against the Spaniards in this crucial Euro encounter. Gerard Pique must be vigilant enough so that Pelle does not impose any threat.
3. Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas Vs Daniele De Rossi
Spain are known to play free flowing football in which the players do not have any fixed position, especially the midfielders. In this Euro, Vicente Del Bosque is using Andres Iniesta in a deeper role with Cesc Fabregas in attack. But often Fabregas and Iniesta change their positions which might prove dangerous for Conte's men. Italy's most experienced midfielder in the squad Daniele De Rossi will have keep a check on these two Spanish stars and blocl their movements in the midfield itself.
4. Emanuele Giaccherini Vs Sergio Busquets
Emanuele Giaccherini plays just behind the two strikers Graziano Pelle and Eder. He is the main feeder of balls in this Italian side and the Azzuris will bank heavily on this 31-year-old Bologna midfielder. Sergio Busquets will be in charge of blocking Giaccherini's movements nip their attacks in the bud.
5. David Silva Vs Leonardo Bonucci
As we had discussed in the earlier point, Spain tend to play in a free-flowing style as a result, even though they start with a 4-3-3 formation with Silva, Nolito and Morata upfront, Silva often comes deep down and make his movements down the middle. Leonardo Bonucci will be in charge of keeping an eye on Spanish talisman.