Everything points out to a firecracker of a game in Udinese where the European Championship finalists from four years ago meet in a friendly international that will be the perfect way to get warmed up for this year’s Euro in France.
When talking about Italy national squad, the main focus in the following weeks and months will be put on the head coach Antonio Conte, rather than on his players. The Italian tactician is nearing the end of his reign with the Azzurri and is widely expected to take over at Chelsea once the Euro 2016 is over. Italy had no problems securing their place in the 2016 European Championship finals, cruising to top-place finish in the group stage. Having failed to make a notable result in Brazil in 2014, the tournament in France is the perfect opportunity for the team to round a full circle with a result that would be remembered. The high-profile match against Spain will also be the perfect chance for the Italians to see where they stand and a chance for Conte to test some of the new players that could become key part of the national set-up in the future. Napoli’s Brazil-born midfielder Jorginho has been called up for the first time, together with Fiorentina’s Federico Bernardeschi following the pair’s fantastic performances this season. In addition, Thiago Motta returns to the squad for the first time since 2014.
Marco Verratti, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini miss the game through injury.
Conte will not be able to count on Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo for the Thursday’s match as well, and what is more they are likely to miss the Euro 2016 due to fitness problems.
With three consecutive international titles and back-to-back continental crowns, Spain are the red-hot favourites to do the impossible and lift the European trophy for the third time in a row this summer. Having in mind their premature elimination at the 2014 World Cup, Spain will be going to France determined to rebuild their reputation with a new crop of players ready to build op on the successes of their predecessors. La Roja are enjoying a fine run of seven consecutive wins in the last twelve months and are eager to continue in the same fashion as they prepare for the fixture in Udine. There are a couple of new faces in Spanish squad as Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto has been awarded with his first-ever call-up for the senior squad and is likely to be involved against Italy and Romania. Another well-deserved inclusion is the 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz who received his only previous cap in 2010, but has now been awarded for his sublime form which saw him score 31 goals for Athletic Bilbao this season.
Diego Costa has been left out of the squad for fitness issues according to Del Bosque and not his most recent antics at Chelsea.
His omission will provide a chance for Paco Alcacer, Morata and Aduriz to show their worth a possibly earn their place in the team for the Euro 2016.
Key Factors to Consider
- Italy lost only one of their last ten matches on home soil
- Azzurri won only once in their last ninemeetings with La Roja
- Spain are on a seven-match winning stretch
- De Bosque’s men have kept the clean sheet in their last six fixtures
- Aduriz returns to the national fold for the first time since 2010
Marquee match between the two European heavyweights is likely to offer plenty of excitement for the Italian crowd. The Thursday’s match will be a chance for both coaches to test a couple of options and we should witness an openly contested affair.
Verdict: Both teams to score – yes
Bookmaker: William Hill