Xavi considers the style of Antonio Conte’s Italy to be a mixture of aspects from Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.
Italy booked their place in the Euro 2016 second round, where they will meet Spain, after winning their opening two Group E fixtures against Belgium and Sweden.
With their section already won, Conte made numerous changes to his starting line-up for a match that ended in a 1-0 defeat to Republic of Ireland.
However, the former Barca midfielder has been impressed by the Azzurri coach’s work and can see similarities with two of La Liga’s giants in their style.
“He’s applied what he did at Juventus. They defend deep, and are able to play with or without the ball,” Xavi told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I believe Italy are a mix of Barcelona and Atletico. You always have your great history as well. Even if you switched the entire starting XI you still have that fight. Italy have always been dangerous.”
Xavi is concerned about the difficulties Italy’s formation, with three at the back and five in midfield, could pose to Spain at the Stade de France on Monday in a repeat of the Euro 2012 final.
“[Italy’s] 3-5-2 formation is tough for a team that wants to press high. When Italy move forward with the ball, they can do so with one of the three defenders or the five midfielders which makes it difficult for Spain to press,” he added.
“Playing with two strikers complicates things because that forces both of our central defenders to mark, pushing one of our full-backs up to press Antonio Candreva or Alessandro Florenzi.
“You have to change formation in order to adapt. Chile and Netherlands both used a 3-5-2 against us at the 2014 World Cup and we struggled.”
However, the former Barca midfielder believes Spain have proven to be the strongest team at the European Championship, despite being beaten to top spot in their group by Croatia.
“Spain have played the best football at the Euros,” said Xavi. “We have done well in defence and that starts in attack.
“The other team rarely see the ball and are unable to create chances. The key is to play like a team: if someone doesn’t participate, that is where the problems begin.
“Then there are two key players who hold the team together, and I don’t just say that because they are friends: Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta.
“The first brings balance and is able to carry the ball out, while the second organises things and leads the attack. They are key to the side and the best Spanish players.”
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