Wembley will welcome 60,000 spectators on Tuesday evening for a semi-final between two European heavyweights as Italy take on Spain in a rerun of the 2012 final with a place in the Euro 2020 final on the line.
Italy has blossomed in the tournament, coming in as outsiders to placing themselves firmly as favourites thanks to insightful attacking football under Roberto Mancini.
Last time out in the quarter-finals the Azzurri showed both sides of their game to get an impressive 2-1 win against Belgium in Munich. In the first half Italy showed their attacking intent and raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Nicolò Barella and a rocket Lorenzo Insigne. Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s rash push lead to a penalty converted by Romelu Lukaku.
To the immense credit to the Italians, they defended resolutely in the second half to shut out Belgium defined by Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini celebrating a host of clutch clearances under pressure. It also helped that Romelu Lukaku missed a host of crucial chances in the second half. Whilst the final ten minutes, Italy rolled back the years to their cynical best and showed a masterclass in time-wasting to hold out for the win.
However, the victory in Munich did come at some cost for the Italians as standout defender Leonardo Spinazzola limped off with a ruptured Achilles ending his tournament. That did lead to moving scenes after the game as the team rallied around the Roma left-back, vowing to win the tournament for him.
In team news, Emerson Palmieri is set to come in for Spinazzola, whilst Roberto Mancini could face a dilemma at right-back between Alessandro Florenzi and Giovanni Di Lorenzo. In attack, Federico Chiesa looks set to keep his place after impressing off the ball against Belgium.
Italy Predicted Team
Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Immobile, Insigne
As for Spain, they have not perhaps hit the heights at Euro 2020, but still find themselves in the final four of the tournament. A sluggish start at the group stage, the Spanish sparked into life with two five goal performances against Slovakia and Croatia.
Last time out, the quarter-final against Switzerland was perhaps not the best showing of the abilities of La Roja. A fortunate own goal Denis Zakaria gave the Spanish the lead, before Xherdan Shaqiri deservedly got Switzerland back into the contest. The game turned on Remo Freuler being sent off and despite Spain having the numerical advantage they could not make it count for the remainder of the game and extra-time.
This has been a theme of the Spanish at the tournament so far, the distinct lack of creative flair needed to unlock a pack defense has been lacking and it was shown to be true again against Switzerland. Despite dominating the ball and chances, the play seems almost formulaic and too easy to predict. This will certainly be cause for concern for Luis Enrique, especially after seeing how the Italians masterfully shut out Belgium.
In team news, PSG winger Pablo Sarabia is a major doubt for the contest after picking up a muscle injury against Switzerland, Red Bull RB Leipzig man Dani Olmo is likely to cover in his absence. Ferran Torres is likely to keep his place in the side and will link up alongside Dani Olmo and Alvaro Morata in attack.
Spain Predicted Team
Simon; Azpilicueta, Laporte, Torres, Alba; Koke, Busquets, Pedri; Torres, Morata, Olmo
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