Spain centre-back Gerard Pique has warned his teammates that Italy remain a strong force ahead of their Euro 2012 clash on Sunday.
The world and European champions will face the Azzurri in Group C’s opening fixture in two days’ time. La Roja are competition favourites, whilst Italy’s preparations have been hampered by the betting scandal in Serie A and Andrea Barzagli’s late injury.
Even so, Pique believes that Cesare Prandelli’s side remain a force to be reckoned with come the weekend.
“Italy are most dangerous when they seem not to be,” reflected the Barcelona defender in his Friday news conference.
“They like to move, just as you think you can clear them as a hurdle. They will be there, fighting for the title and will qualify for the second phase. When it comes to these circumstances, this is when they are most dangerous and stronger.
“I don’t think it is an advantage, much less so in fact, that Italy arrive under these conditions. When they are hurt or seem off-balance is when they are their best.
“We must be attentive 100 per cent, with all five senses, because in these situations they play best.”
Pique then picked out the dangermen he believes he and his teammates will have to watch out for.
“I think players like [Mario] Balotelli can win you a game. Meanwhile, [Andrea] Pirlo can win you an entire championship, as he dominates all facets of the game, he knows how to change the rhythm of play. Balotelli has his moments, he can get a goal when you least expect it.”