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Preview: Italy vs. Spain - prediction, team news, lineups
05/10/2021 09:59:31

Seeking revenge for their Euro 2020 semi-final defeat, Spain prepare to meet Italy in the semi-finals of the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League on Wednesday evening.

Luis Enrique's side took top spot in League A Group 4 to advance to the final four, while the reigning European champions went six games unbeaten in League A Group 1.

We say: Italy 2-1 Spain (a.e.t)

Spain have historically struggled to get one over Italy on their own turf, but the absences of star strikers Morata and Immobile will harm both teams on the attacking front.

It is difficult to see the two European powerhouses being separated over the course of 90 minutes once again, but we think Italy's bench will have that little bit of added quality needed to see them through to the final.

Match preview

After being forced to do it the hard way against both Spain and England before walking up the podium to collect their Euro 2020 winners' medals, Italy struggled to keep the momentum from their celebratory summer going in last month's World Cup Qualifying fixtures.

Indeed, Mancini's men played out a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria before being held to a goalless stalemate by Switzerland, but a rotated side eased to a 5-0 success over Lithuania in their most recent game, with Moise Kean netting twice on the day.

Italy's magnificent unbeaten streak across all tournaments is still intact heading into Wednesday's game, with the Euro 2020 winners now going in search of their 38th game in a row without defeat in all competitions since going down 1-0 to Portugal in the inaugural Nations League over three years ago.

Mancini's side had seen their previously resilient defence breached five games in a row after a remarkable 11-game run without conceding between November 2020 and June 2021, but they have responded with back-to-back clean sheets against Switzerland and Lithuania as they seek to get one over Spain once more.

The Azzurri could only win three and draw the other three of their games in League A Group 1 last autumn, but they pipped the Netherlands to top spot by a solitary point and will endeavour to finish a near-perfect year with even more silverware in the cabinet.

Spain failed to respond to their Euro 2020 heartbreak straight away as they once again struggled against an inspired Sweden - losing 2-1 in World Cup Qualifying - but they returned to winning ways with convincing successes over Georgia and Kosovo.

Premier League duo Ferran Torres and Pablo Fornals both netted against the latter to boost La Roja's bid for automatic Qatar 2022 World Cup qualification, but their run to the Nations League finals was far from straightforward.

After posting a mixed bag of results - including a 1-0 loss to Ukraine and 1-1 draw with Switzerland - Spain shocked the continent by trouncing Germany 6-0 back in November, with that result seeing them finish two points clear atop the pile in League A Group 4.

Spain will now endeavour to book their tickets to Sunday's final at San Siro against either Belgium or France, and they need no added motivation to get one over the Italians after a penalty shootout defeat to the Azzurri at the Euros after a 1-1 draw.

That summer loss to the European champions means that Spain head into Wednesday's battle having won just one of their last five against Italy in all competitions, and incredibly, La Roja have not won this fixture on Italian turf since all the way back in 1971.

Team News

Italy will be forced to cope without star striker Ciro Immobile after the Lazio man withdrew from the squad through injury, while Rafael Toloi and Matteo Pessina will not be involved either.

Immobile's absence could see Kean given the opportunity to lead the line alongside Federico Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne, with the rest of the team having a very familiar feel to it from Euro 2020.

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci - with 224 caps between them - ought to form a highly effective defensive partnership once more, with Emerson continuing on the left-hand side following Leonardo Spinazzola's Achilles injury at the Euros.

Spain's Euro 2020 contingent of Pedri, Thiago Alcantara, Dani Olmo and Alvaro Morata will play no part in October's games due to injury, while Diego Llorente, Adama Traore and Jordi Alba are not part of the travelling party either.

Tottenham Hotspur's Bryan Gil has been called up to the squad to replace another casualty in Marcos Llorente, while two uncapped players in Gavi and Yeremi Pino have also made the cut.

Unai Simon should retain his spot in goal despite David de Gea's return to form, while Torres could start centrally in the absence of Morata.

Italy possible starting lineup:

Donnarumma; Di Lorenzo, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson; Barella, Jorginho, Verratti; Chiesa, Kean, Insigne

Spain possible starting lineup:

Simon; Azpilicueta, Torres, Laporte, Reguilon; Koke, Busquets, Merino; Sarabia, Torres, Oyarzabal

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