Italy defender Andrea Barzagli says his side will adopt a physical approach when they face Spain in Euro 2016’s last 16 on Monday.
Antonio Conte’s men will be without Antonio Candreva through injury and Barzagli highlighted Andres Iniesta and Alvaro Morata as Spain’s main threats.
The striker has scored three goals in three games at the tournament and will be a familiar face to the Italy backline, who all play for Juventus, as Morata recently completed a move back to Real Madrid after two years at the Serie A champions.
“There are no friends on the pitch,” he told a media conference. “I struggle even to say hello to them before kick-off, as it’s an issue of concentration.
“Morata is one of many dangers in the Spain side, they have a lot of quality and we must be wary of everyone.
“We know Morata’s strengths, but must also keep an eye on the others, as Spain have many players who can send him clear on goal. We are studying Spain, have already faced them and are preparing in the best possible way.
“Of course, Morata also knows us. He is aware that if he runs into Giorgio Chiellini’s area, he’ll get a kicking.”
Barzagli is expecting a difficult challenge against the holders, who are seeking an unprecedented third straight European Championship title, but the veteran defender says motivation will not be a problem for Italy.
“The game is only easy in terms of motivating yourself,” said Barzagli. “Everything else will be very hard.
“We’re preparing for this great last-16 tie, we’re focused with the right spirit and with two days to go, we’re at a good point.”
Barzagli hinted Italy will try to get on the front foot against Spain, whose surprise 2-1 defeat to Croatia in their final group game set up this heavyweight clash.
“We can’t play a defensive game as that would be a big mistake,” Barzagli said. “On the pitch, we have to win the individual battles, we have to try and stop them playing and then hurt them.
“We shouldn’t think about praise or criticism but we should show that we can achieve results. I don’t think I’ve been Italy’s best so far. We have a tried and tested defence and we work together a lot.”
Italy have a number of players at risk of suspension, Barzagli among them, but the 35-year-old is unconcerned about the prospect of missing the quarter-final if he is carded in Monday’s game.
“It’s dangerous playing on a yellow and suspension is a risk,” the Juventus defender added. “We don’t think about it, we actually joke about it.
“I’ve matured a lot over the past few years. Playing and winning in a good team makes you want to improve. At 35, I still feel I can play like a 20-year-old. I train like them and I can stay at their level.”
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