For many years Italy had the upper hand on Spain when it came to tournament football. Every time the two met the Azzurri seemed to come out on top, by hook or by crook. However, in the last decade the tables have turned. Spain have overcome their perennial underachievement to become one of the strongest national teams in the world. Nothing demonstrated this better than the 4-0 drubbing the Azzurri received at the hand of La Roja in the final of Euro 2012. Putting four goals past any team is mightily impressive, to do it against Italy is remarkable.
Despite Italy topping their group, Spain's unprecedented 2-1 loss to Croatia in their final group stage match has seen them draw one of the toughest teams in the whole competition. However, as Italy have proven so far with an emphatic 2-0 win over Belgium, big matches are their speciality and the prospect of revenge for that loss four years ago should give them all the motivation they need to go and beat La Furia.
Whilst still a formidable side and one of the best in Europe, this is not the Spain team of four years ago that swept all before them with their devastating possession game. Their group stage exit from the World Cup two years ago proved that they're not invincible and their laboured performances so far in this tournament will have given Italy hope that they can be gotten at. If Croatia can overcome them, then Italy certainly can. Good counter-attacking football will always cause problems for these kinds of teams and Italy's wing backs will be crucial in exploiting the space behind Juanfran and Jordi Alba in the wide areas whilst the three men in the centre of midfield do the dirty work. Arguably, they are the perfect team for Italy to face right now.
After warming the bench for the Ireland game, several players are expected to return to the starting line-up for this match. Gianluigi Buffon will replace Salvarore Sirigu in goal whilst Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini will partner Leonardo Bonucci in central defence. Daniele De Rossi, Marco Parolo and Emanuele Giaccherini will start in midfield with Eder and Graziano Pelle up front. The only difference to the team that started against Belgium will be the wing backs. One of Matteo Darmian or Milan's Mattia De Sciglio will probably play on the left, however Alessandro Florenzi is likely to replace Antonio Candreva on the right after he was ruled out through injury a few days ago. Candreva was crucial for Italy against Belgium and Sweden, so his absence will be felt. If there were a time for Florenzi to step up, it would be now.
Spain are likely to deploy a standard 433 formation as is expected with the same team that started against Croatia playing here too. Italy's familiarity with Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata should enable them to keep him quiet, however's there is plenty to worry about otherwise with the likes of David Silva and Andres Iniesta on the pitch. The defence is a weak point with both Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos looking jittery against Croatia and goalkeeper David De Gea looking out of form at the minute too. That's not to say Italy will have a comfortable time of it though. This is the their toughest match of the tournament so far, but if they emerge victorious it will stand as a real statement of intent from the Azzurri.
Italy: 3-5-3 - Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Alessandro Florenzi, Marco Parolo, Daniele De Rossi, Emanuele Giaccherini, Matteo Darmian, Eder, Graziano Pelle.
Spain: 4-3-3 - David De Gea; Juanfran, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Cesc Fabregas, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta; David Silva, Alvaro Morata, Nolito.
How To Watch
Where: Parc Des Princes, Paris.
When: 18.00pm local, 12.00pm EST, Monday 27th June 2016.
TV: SKY Italia 1 (Italy), BBC 1 (UK), ESPN 2 (USA)
Online: SKY Go Italia (Italy), BBC Iplayer (UK), Watch ESPN (USA)
International listings can be viewed here.
Italy 1-0 Belgium
As with Belgium, Italy are the underdogs. However, that's how Italy like it and they can cause an upset here once again and finally get revenge on Spain.