NEWS
Sunday July 1 2012
Euro 2012 Final Preview: Spain-Italy

Tonight Italy and Spain go head-to-head for the Euro 2012 trophy in Kiev, though some question marks remain over the line-ups.

These two sides already faced off in the 1-1 group game on June 10 with Antonio Di Natale’s goal cancelled out by Cesc Fabregas.

At the time Spain adopted a no-striker system with Fabregas as the ‘False 9’ and could well repeat that this evening.

Vicente Del Bosque could be tempted by introduce Fernando Torres, who caused the Italian defence problems when he came off the bench in that first meeting.

Other options include Fernando Llorente (still unused) and Alvaro Negredo (used to little effect against Portugal).

There are some reports Xavi Hernandez could be dropped, seeing the difference his substitution made in the semi-final against Portugal.

Italy used a 3-5-2 tactic in the first meeting and some suggested they would bring it back for the Final, but in his Press conference Cesare Prandelli insisted he had “not even considered” that possibility.

They instead seem set to stick with the 4-1-3-2, a rotating diamond midfield, that proved so effective in the knockouts against England and Germany.

Once again, Riccardo Montolivo looks set to take the not-quite-trequartista role at the front of the diamond, preferred to Thiago Motta and Alessandro Diamanti.

Antonio Cassano has a slight sprain in his knee, but is able to start alongside three-goal hero Mario Balotelli.

At the back, Ignazio Abate has recovered from his thigh injury and Christian Maggio is back from suspension, so there could be changes for the full-back positions.

It could be risky, as Maggio is more accustomed to Napoli using a 3-5-2 and showed difficulties when played as part of a four-man defence.

It’s reported Federico Balzaretti is feeling fatigued, so would make way for Abate, keeping Giorgio Chiellini at left-back.

Andrea Barzagli was not able to take part in the opening 1-1 draw due to injury, so it will be the first time he has faced Spain at Euro 2012.

The history books do not speak favourably to Spain, who have never beaten Italy in a major tournament over 90 minutes.

The only potential exception was the 1920 Olympics Third Place Final in Antwerp, which ended 2-0.

Their most recent official meeting was the quarter-final of Euro 2008, decided on a penalty shoot-out as Spain went on to win the trophy.

In total these sides have played out 10 Azzurri victories, 11 draws and eight Spanish wins.

The Nazionale has only ever won the European Championship once, in 1968 when played on home soil, although they lost the Euro 2000 Final to France on a Golden Goal.

Probable line-ups

Italy: Buffon; Abate, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Marchisio, Pirlo, De Rossi; Montolivo; Balotelli, Cassano

Spain: Casillas; Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso; David Silva, Fabregas, Iniesta

Ref: Proença (Por)

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