Italy v Spain: Azzurri to advance at San Siro

Italy face Spain in a repeat of their epic Euro 2020 semi-final showdown with a place in the Nations League final up for grabs at San Siro on Wednesday. Mark O'Haire shares his views.

As you were, for Italy

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has invested faith with the majority of the squad that triumphed at Euro 2020 for the finals of the Nations League. Twenty-two of the initial 26 European champions were selected, along with Lorenzo Pellegrini, the in-form Roma captain who missed out on the summer tournament due to an injury.

However, weekend injuries have called for a few reinforcements. Matteo Pessina, Ciro Immobile and Rafael Toloi have pulled out with Sandro TonaliMoise Kean and Davide Calabria getting the call as the Azzurri bid to extend a world-record unbeaten run of 37 matches against a Spain side they saw off on penalties in the Euro 2020 semi-finals.

Mancini has been keen to build on the strong bond between the players and staff as preparations begins for next year's World Cup. The Italy boss admitted the relationship of the squad was a key building block towards the Euro 2020 and said, "We have an extraordinary relationship. It's really true that you can win with a great group."

More surprises from Spain

Spain supremo Luis Enrique created headlines again when revealing his Nations League squad last weekend. No Real Madrid players were included in the La Roja roster, with the headline inclusion being 17-year-old playmaker Gavi - the youngster had played just 288 minutes of first-team football for Barcelona before being called-up for the senior squad.

Luis Enrique has also had to deal with a couple of withdrawals. PedriAlvaro Morata and Marcos Llorente were unable to join up with the squad through injury, so Brais Mendez and Bryan Gil come into the camp. Without Morata in attack, the coach is considering starting Ferran Torres as a false nine after impressing in the position for Man City this season.

Spain were unfortunate not to beat Italy in July and Luis Enrique said his squad are hoping to go one better this time around. He said, "As our psychologist says, the day will soon come when they lose. We could have done it already at the European Championship and we weren't able. We must think that we can be the first ones to beat them."

Azzurri eager to extend streak

In their absolute tiki-taka pomp, Spain swept Italy aside 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012, but the balance of power has shifted a little since. Italy eliminated La Roja with a 2-0 win in the 2016 European Championship last-16 before repeating the feat this summer, ousting the Iberians on penalties at the semi-final stage despite being largely outplayed across the 120 minutes.

Italy 2.42 lifted the European Championship title for the first time since 1968 and were many pundits' standout side this summer. Roberto Mancini's team are unbeaten in over three years and have shipped just five goals across their last 18 outings (W13-D5-L0). The hosts are unbeaten in competitive home games since 1999, a 58-game streak.

Spain 3.40 were the data darlings at Euro 2020, dominating possession and generating eye-catching Expected Goals (xG) figures. However, Luis Enrique's troops were prone to giving away good opportunities in transition and that was further evidenced in La Roja's deserved 2-1 defeat away to Sweden during World Cup qualifying back in September.

Mancini's men to advance at San Siro

Italy have scored in each of their last 18 internationals, firing a solitary blank in 25 outings. With the Azzurri offering plenty of threat on the counter-attack, Roberto Mancini's also engineered a ferocious pressing game from his side. But could the home side change tact here after being tactically outmanoeuvred by Spain during the Euro semi-finals? Possibly.

Spain's aforementioned reverse to Sweden was La Roja's first in World Cup qualifying in 28 years but the burgeoning squad have been on an upward trajectory since Luis Enrique arrived on the scene. With a point to prove, the Iberians are dangerous underdogs, although the loss of Alvaro Morata and Pedri weaken the visitors' in key areas for Wednesday.

Home advantage should tip the balance in Italy's favour and keeping the Azzurri onside is preferred with Italy Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals available to support at 1.95 via the Bet Builder. We'll have the 1-0 and 2-0 wins onside, as well as the 0-0 or 1-1 draw.

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