Two heavyweights of international football square up in Turin on Thursday, live on ITV4.
Italy v Spain - Thursday 19:45, ITV4
Italy triumphed 2-0 in a deserved victory when these teams last met in the round of 16 at Euro 2016. Since then both sides have changed manager, though the style of the two teams remain largely unchanged. Julen Lopetegui has made a decent start, condemning Belgium to their first home defeat in three years before an expected thrashing over Liechtenstein.
David Silva has been Spain’s most impressive player, starting high up the pitch and scoring twice in both of these games, but just as important has been the midfield duo of Thiago Alcantara and Koke. The Atletico Madrid man had a fine understanding with Diego Costa when the two played together, and with the Chelsea striker in red hot form this season, he looks like good value to be the first goalscorer.
New Italy manager Giampiero Ventura has avoided sweeping changes and kept the back three preferred by Antonio Conte. As the trio of centre-backs all play together for Juventus with Gianluigi Buffon behind them this makes perfect sense as international managers don’t get the same time with their players to drill them defensively. However, Chiellini is suspended following his sending off against Israel and as a result Ventura has a difficult decision on his hands, with no truly high quality replacement waiting in the wings.
These two sides have a history of cautious encounters, with the first half being drawn in nine of the last 11 meetings and fewer than three goals also in nine. At least one team has failed to score in six of Spain’s last seven matches and in six of Italy’s last nine, also suggesting a low-scoring engagement. Whilst Italy are unbeaten in their last 16 at home, Spain proved against Belgium that they can end such long runs and with Chiellini out we’re siding with the visitors by backing Draw/Spain half time/full time, whilst the 0-1 correct score is also worth a punt.