Spain and Italy do battle yet again

Two of Europe’s superpowers do battle tonight in the second semi final of the 2013 confederations cup. Group A runners up Italy go head to head against Group B winners Spain. A rematch of last year’s European championship finals in which Spain thumped a hapless Italian team 4 nil, fireworks are expected in tonight’s encounter as Italy will have revenge on their minds as they seek to end a dreadful run against Spain that has seen them beat their opponents just once in their last 8 meetings. That sole victory came in a friendly game in August 2011 with a 2-1 victory for the Azzuri courtesy of goals from Ricardo Montolivo and Aquilani.

    Spain had a relatively easy ride in Group B scoring 15 goals and conceding just once. Coach Vincente Del Bosque has had the luxury to test most of his squad in the 3 group matches with what might seem like his preferred starting XI on display against Uruguay and Nigeria. Spain topped the group with relative ease and were untroubled. Italy on the contrary, stuttered through the group stage and have shown serious frailty at the back with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon putting on a dodgy performance in the game against Brazil. Spain go into the game as favourites, but they surely have not forgotten how they were humbled by the United States in the semi finals of the 2009 confederations cup semi finals. They went into that game as overwhelming favourites to beat the Americans but goals from Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey spoiled the party for the Spaniards. A combination of wasteful finishing and dogged defending from the Americans saw Spain go down to a shock 2 nil defeat that night in Durban. Spain will be well aware that Italy are a team never to be written off poor form or not.

Tactics board and team news: Italy coach Casere Prandelli might choose to revert to a 3-5-2 formation that did very well against Spain at the group stage of last summer’s European championships when they managed to hold Spain to a 1-1 draw. His team have struggled with his 4-2-3-1 Or 4-3-2-1 formation he has tinkered with in this competition, especially his defence largely made up of Juventus players who are more suited to a 3-5-2 system utilized by their club. I’m of the opinion that Prandelli needs the five in midfield to stifle Spain in a position where they hold their most potent threat. Unfortunately for Italy, Mario Balotelli is set to miss the clash through injury. His absence is sure to be a huge miss. On any day, Balotelli is a class act as he has proved so far in this confederations cup. Alberto Gilardino is expected to start in Balotelli’s place. Spain have Roberto Soldado and Cesc Fabregas as doubts for the match through injury. That in itself shouldn’t trouble coach Vincente Del Bosque as he has a glut of talent to choose from in every position. Fernando Torres is expected to start in place of David Villa as the man on form on 5 goals. Spain are expected to dominate possession as they always do and press high up the pitch but will have to pay close attention to Andrea Pirlo in Italy’s midfield. If Pirlo is stopped, then Spain will have a very bright chance of appearing for their very first confederations cup final.

    Prediction: History favours Italy for this one. In 31 previous meetings between both sides, Italy have 10 victories to Spain’s 9. 12 of those encounters have ended in draws. However, I feel this Spain side will just be too strong for Italy tonight and in Balotelli’s absence, Italy lack a genuine goal scoring threat. I see Spain winning a hard fought encounter 2 nil. Footnyx.

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