The winner of this classic international all-star clash will be granted progression to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals where either Germany or Slovakia will be waiting.
La Roja and Azzurri had probably been the two most impressive teams at the tournament until the pair proceeded to lose their final group games which has really left us guessing. The titanic clash is likely to set up a battle with the World Champions in Bordeaux five days later and will no doubt be a tense affair.
Italy were ranked as tournament outsiders in the weeks before the Euros kicked off. However, two wins from their opening games catapulted Antonio Conte and his team among the favorites to win the competition.
Antonio Conte’s men had convincingly exposed dark horses Belgium in their opening game. Bonucci gave a defending master class and emerged as an unlikely defensive playmaker when he supplied an inch perfect pass for Emmanuelle Giaccherini for the opening goal. In the closing stages Graziano Pelle added a second on the counter-attack to bring the game to a close a 2-0.
Against Sweden, in the 89th minute, Simeone Zaza stole the three points for Azzurri to net his first goal in all competitions since January. In the third and final group game, with top spot sewn up, the Italians made several personnel changes and were punished by a 87th minute Robbie Brady winner for Republic of Ireland.
In La Roja’s first two matches of Euro 2016, Vicente del Bosque’s side produced only glimpses of the type of football we have been missing since they lifted the European Championships trophy four years ago.
Against Czech Republic the Spanish went some distance in exorcising the demons of their disastrous 2014 World Cup campaign when Barcelona’s Gerard Pique nodded home a late winner to secure three points in a 1-0 win. A 3-0 victory over Turkey followed where Alvaro Morata scored twice to put questions to bed over his suitability in leading Spain’s attack.
With a spot in the last-16 safe Spain met Croatia in the final group game where avoiding defeat would have landed top spot in Group D. It looked like they were about to do just that too when Iniesta’ incisive pass found Cesc Fabregas who chipped a shot goalwards for Alvaro Morata to tap in for his third of the tournament. Before half-time the scores were level when a lapse in Spain’s concentration allowed Niko Kalinc to level.
With 18 minutes remaining Spain were awarded a dubious penalty after David Silva was brought down. Spain captain Sergio Ramos stepped up and missed despite Croatia stopper Daniel Subasic appearing to lunge from his line before the spot kick had been taken. With minutes left on the clock another incisive counter attack saw Ivan Perisic grab his second of the tournament when he beat David de Gea at his near post to make it 2-1 to Croatia.
Spain have met Italy a total of 30 times in the history of the game. The Italians have triumphed eight times while the Spaniards have won 11. The other 11 games ended with the scores level. At major competitions the two tournament heavyweights have met eight times.
At World Cups and European Championships Italy have won three times while Spain have won twice. The remaining three have ended in draws. Spain have had the better of recent history. La Roja embarrassed Italy in the Euro 2012 final with a 4-0 victory after the pair had drawn 0-0 in the group stage and also beat Azzurri on their way to Euro 2008 glory on penalties in the quarter-final.
Italy’s three victories over Spain at major tournaments occurred in the 1934 World Cup, Euro 88 and the 1994 World Cup.
The last time the two teams met was in March 2016 during a friendly in Udine, Italy. Lorenzo Insinge’s 68th minute strike was cancelled out two minutes later by Athletic Bilbao’s Aritz Arduriz.
Antonio Conte looks set to return to the side which defeated Belgium and Sweden from the team that suffered a 1-0 defeat to Republic of Ireland with seven changes. Giorgio Chiellni and Gianluigi Buffon were both rested from the back line and will return to first team duties.
Alessandro Florenzi shifted into central midfield against the Irish but should be back on the right wing against Spain. Eder and Graziano Pelle’s striking partnership is set to be reignited while Antonio Candreva, Marco Parolo, Daniele de Rossi and Emanuele Giaccherini will start in Conte’s midfield in the 3-5-2 wing-back formation.
Thiago Motta played in the loss to Martin O’Neill’s side and his experience could be needed off the bench when they take on reigning champions Spain in Paris.
Heading into the last-16, the back four of Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini all carry yellow cards, as do Zaza, De Rossi, Eder.
Going in to the game against Ireland, Italy were already guaranteed top spot in Group E leading to Conte to make some changes. The new Chelsea coach said he was pleased with the performances of the squad’s fringe players and felt his players deserved more.
“I got a good response from the guys who hadn’t played as much. I have nothing to reproach my players for. The draw would have been a fairer outcome given the chances that were produced.”
Asked if Italy were now on Spain’s level, Conte replied spikily: “I don’t know. You are all so good at judging, so you tell me.”
Predicted Line Up: Buffon; Bonucci, Chiellini, Barzagi; Florenzi, Giaccherini, De Rossi, Parolo, Candreva; Pelle, Eder.
Vicente del Bosque is yet to make a change to his starting 11 at Euro 2016. With progression secured after the first two games, Spain again fielded a full strength 4-3-3 versus Croatia.
Alvaro Morata is finding form in a La Roja jersey with three goals in the tournament so far. Meanwhile Sergio Ramos could be taken off penalty taking duty after missing fro the spot in the defeat to the Croats, the captain is also the only player in the Spanish squad to collect a yellow card at Euro 2016.
After an hour against Croatia, Nolito was withdrawn in place of defensive midfielder Bruno but it is unlikely Del Bosque will make any changes to his original Euro 2016 XI.
Spain are now in the same half of the Euro 2016 draw as Italy, Germany, France and England. Del Bosque conceded facing Italy so early on was not on his agenda.
“It’s a game it looked like we had under control,” he said. “We will try and recover as well as possible from this setback and be in as good condition as possible on Monday.
“Even today we didn’t play badly but this is the result and we need to prepare to play against Italy. The players were sat in silence. They don’t enjoy losing.
“I’m not going to defend our performance excessively but I think we played quite well. It was just one slip of concentration at the end. I don’t have any complaints about the players. We have time to analyze what the game against Italy means.
“We’re still in the competition, we are not on the path we wanted to be but we have to rise to the situation.”
Del Bosque also defended his team selection after picking the same lineup three games in a row.
“I think they may be tired,” he conceded. “That’s normal playing a game in this temperature against this team, but I think we were in good condition to play this game.
“We don’t have a scientific way of saying these [players] can play, or these can’t play. We have lots of confidence in the physical condition of our players.”
Predicted Line Up: De Gea; Juanfran, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta; Silva, Morata, Nolito.