Thursday, August 24, 2017

Euro 2012 Group C preview: Spain v Italy

Reigning champions and Euro 2012 favourites Spain begin their campaign with a tough encounter against Italy on Sunday.

The star-studded Spanish side are aiming for a third straight major title after winning the European and world crowns.

Injuries have hit the squad with Carles Puyol and David Villa to miss the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

While Vicente del Bosque has a big task in replacing the important pair, there is no secret as to how Spain will go about their business.

Spain’s midfielders dominate with a possession-based game, a style the likes of Barcelona stars Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets need no introduction to.

Add Manchester City playmaker David Silva and Chelsea attacker Juan Mata and Spain are deserved favourites to win the trophy.

Del Bosque is likely to need at least one centre forward in his attacking line, but who is given the responsibility out of Fernando Torres, Pedro and Fernando Llorente remains to be seen.

Puyol’s absence means Sergio Ramos may be needed in the centre of defence alongside Gerard Pique, while highly-rated left-back Jordi Alba could surprise at the 16-team tournament.

Italy have injury worries of their own in defence heading into the clash at PGE Arena in Gdansk.

Defensive midfielder Daniele De Rossi appears certain to start in a three-man defence with Andrea Barzagli (calf) sidelined.

Cesare Prandelli’s team have also been forced to deal with off-field issues in the lead-up to the tournament.

A fresh match-fixing scandal has led to arrests in Italy, but the national team has a good record when surrounded with controversy.

The Calciopoli affair broke ahead of the 2006 World Cup, which Italy won, while they clinched the 1982 World Cup thanks to Golden Boot winner Paolo Rossi, who was two years earlier banned after a match-fixing investigation.

Despite their problems in defence, Italy have several players capable of providing a spark, particularly up front.

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, Udinese forward Antonio Di Natale and Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio are all capable of breaking open a game.

An undermanned Italian defence will find it hard to keep a clean sheet against Spain, who are favoured to make a winning start to their title defence.

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